Chronicles of the Gutless, or When Did the GOP Become Such Cowards? Scott Brown edition

Just listened to the last debate in the MA Senate race and caught the exchanges between Scott Brown (R-Soundbite) and Martha Coakley (D).

Lots of stuff to notice — mostly that if I were a committed anti-abortion voter, I would  have no one to vote for in this election, as Scott Brown was for, against, and unsure of what he thought on the issue, especially around his proposal a couple of years back to permit hospital workers to refuse to inform rape victims of the existence of a morning-after contraceptive.  He sponsored the idea, then voted in favor of a bill requiring such information, and finally said he was for Roe v. Wade…or sort of.

I have no idea what he really thinks (and how he would vote), and I’m not sure he does either, but I do know that neither supporters nor opponents of women’s right to make their own medical decisions should have any warm and fuzzy feelings about the man right now.

I also liked the zinger that third party guy Joe Kennedy (obligatory no relation reference here) got off on Brown, noting how he’s against taxes now, but declined to support an anti-income tax measure in the run up to the last election.  I actually think that his was the right position at the time, but he sure is running as if he hopes no one remembers that moment of GOP apostasy now.

But all of that is just the secret sauce on top of what makes me think that Brown is truly in tune with the gutless heart of modern Republican “thought” (sic — ed).

That would be his stance on trying accused terrorists in civilian courts, as opposed to maintaining our version of a no-exit gulag beyond the reach of law.

He said, repeatedly, that he opposed trying such suspects in civilian court at — as he said over and over again — “taxpayer expense.”

The witlessness of that got me, of course:  these dudes aren’t a drain on the American public purse now, Mr. Brown?  You think that all those water bills and their three squares, Guantanamo style, come free?

But more deeply, when did the macho-er-than-thou “Mission Accomplished” GOP become so terrified of a handful of violent men (not to mention all those lumped in with the baddest guys who ended up there by accident, but that’s another story) that the mere thought that the rule of law might apply to their cases would send allegedly grown men and women reaching for their blankies?

That’s the rub, for me.  It has always seemed a fundamental mistake to dignify those who aim to blow up random children, women and men with the epithet “enemy” or “combatant.”

Our adversaries — at least  those who use overstuffed jockstraps as weapons — are not warriors. They are not soldiers to be dignified by any hint of equivalence with the men and women we have sent in harm’s way.  They are mere thugs, and they should be treated as such.

This isn’t mere semantics.

We have done nothing to serve the interests of al Qaeda or its kin as to acknowledge them to the world as enemies capable of inspiring fear.  What a recruiting tool, to enable some persuasive person to proclaim to young men that the world’s only superpower fears its “enemy combatants!”

Add to that the help we have given them as our leaders cowered and then masked their fear in the false bravado of torture.  Abu Ghraib was understood to be what it was: not an aberration, but an expression of the policy of the US government — driven by the fear evoked by the specter of global terror.

And now Scott Brown, with all the deep grasp of the issue that only service to Wrentham and posturing in the rump minority of the legislature of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts can bring, comes along and tells us that torture, and indefinite detention, and the suspension of habeas corpus and all the rest remains the only way to deal with the existential threat posed by this bunch of thugs.

Maybe — if we were truly weak, if we were a  fragile, illegitimate rump state, dependent on every last dirty trick of security-apparats to push off  the throes of disintegration.

But we are not.  We are the United States of America, and if that means anything anymore, after all the broken faith of the Bush years, then it means we are capable of using the law to protect and to punish those who have earned the penalty.

Scott Brown doesn’t think so.  His 30 years of military service seem not to have endowed him with spine, or much of a sense of the Constitution he has sworn to protect.  He’d rather cower, and leave those he fears in the cells forever.


We need better in a Senator.  We need someone who is not afraid of shadows, one who understands that the equal application of the law is a defense against those who threaten the idea of America — and not now, nor ever, our weakness.

My Massachusetts readers:  don’t forget to vote come Tuesday, 19 January 2010.

Image:  Georgios Iakovidis, “Cold Shower,” 1898

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6 Comments on “Chronicles of the Gutless, or When Did the GOP Become Such Cowards? Scott Brown edition”

  1. Jim Bales Says:


    Thank you for listening to the debate so I didn’t have to! (Coakley was not my first choice for Senator, but she is head and shoulders better than Brown.)

    In the same vein of GOP cowardice, you might check out John Rogers delightful post from Aug. 2006, recently re-run on his blog Kung Fu Monkey.


  2. aimai Says:

    I agree with Jim, who I don’t know–but you’ve got to love someone who links to kung fu monkey! Also, he’s right on the money. I couldn’t stand to watch the debate so I appreciate your doing it for the rest of us.

    Something else that needs to be pointed out again and again and again: Brown and the republicans are insisting that the reason we need to move the fruit of the boom-er to military tribunals/gitmo is so that we can torture him. They say that’s in order to force him to “tell all” but, of course, there’s ample evidence that he already did tell all. The real reason they want to do it is that they think that torture is used “pour encourager les autres.” and we should do it to scare the (underpants) off the next guy.

    But if anything the story of this poor schnook indicates that the more lenient we are with the bomber–the more we afford him the protections of the law and are punctilious about his treatment–the more likely we are to encourage *the relatives and friends of such people* to turn them in beforehand. His father actually turned him in. If we’d caught him and tortured him beforehand we would have prevented the bombing–but not any more than it was prevented in the first place–and we would have ended up creating more such bombers whose relatives and friends would resent us so much they would be deterimined not to warn us. We’d catch one, and lose all the others.

    In addition to its affect on the community around future terrorists by submitting this guy to the rule of law we are more likely to achieve a situation in which a regretful, or ambivalent terrorist bomber can feel it possible to turn back or change his or her mind. Perhaps even flipping on his own terrorist network.

    Torture, and the militarization and routinization of torture, poisons everything and everyone around it. But Republicans will never admit it because for them, its torture for torture’s sake.


  3. lichanos Says:

    That’s the rub, for me. It has always seemed a fundamental mistake to dignify those who aim to blow up random children, women and men with the epithet “enemy” or “combatant.”

    I totally agree with your logic here. J. Kerry was right when he tried to advocate this is 2006, but he was skewered. That is, he argued for “police action” as opposed to “[endless] war on terror.”

    In truth, the terrorists have been extemely effective in achieving their goal, a simple and direct one, to wit, to inspire fear.

  4. AJ Hill Says:

    The depressing irony is that bin Laden enunciated clearly and in detail what he hoped to elicit by attacking the U.S. in order to “bleed” us, just as he and the mujahadeen bled the Soviets. Bush could hardly have cooperated more fully.

  5. […] The Inverse Square Blog science and the public square — by thomas levenson « Chronicles of the Gutless, or When Did the GOP Become Such Cowards? Scott Brown edition […]

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