Dan Froomkin on the Terror Detainee Bill:
Today’s Senate vote on President Bush’s detainee legislation, after House approval yesterday, marks a defining moment for this nation.
How far from our historic and Constitutional values are we willing to stray? How mercilessly are we willing to treat those we suspect to be our enemies? How much raw, unchecked power are we willing to hand over to the executive?
The legislation before the Senate today would ban torture, but let Bush define it; would allow the president to imprison indefinitely anyone he decides falls under a wide-ranging new definition of unlawful combatant; would suspend the Great Writ of habeas corpus; would immunize retroactively those who may have engaged in torture. And that’s just for starters.
It’s a red-letter day for the country. It’s also a telling day for our political system.
The people have lost confidence in their president. Despite that small recent uptick in the polls, Bush remains deeply unpopular with the American public, mistrusted by a majority, widely considered out of touch with the nation’s real priorities.
But he’s still got Congress wrapped around his little finger.
Today’s vote will show more clearly than ever before that, when push comes to shove, the Republicans who control Congress are in lock step behind the president, and the Democrats — who could block him, if they chose to do so — are too afraid to put up a real fight.