Wednesday, July 18, 2007

New Kind of Washington Wake-Up Call

With their sleeping cots and general disarray, Senate Democrats are evoking images of protests past against an unresponsive government. Granted that demonstrations of old were not by elected officials, the symbolism is familiar.

In 1932, with World War I veterans starving during the Depression, more than 10,000 came to D.C. and camped out, demanding the bonus that had been promised them. They ended up being rousted by the Army under the command of Gen. Douglas MacArthur who ignored President Herbert Hoover’s order to go easy. Generals were feistier then.

In 1969, a quarter of a million peaceful protesters against the war in Vietnam converged on the nation’s capital, holding candlelight vigils until morning. “I do believe,” Sen. Ted Kennedy told them, “this nation is in danger of committing itself to goals and personalities that guarantee the war's continuance.”

The dramatic difference this time is that anger and frustration are directed, not against the government, but by one branch of the Washington power structure against another.

Only a President with the insensitivity and arrogance of George W. Bush could have driven the Congress of the United States to such expression of enraged impotence. Even Herbert Hoover was incapable of that.

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