Sen. Whitehouse Q&A — Nathan Bishop

(1.29) Last summer the statue of “America” in front of the Federal Building was briefly enshrouded, just as the horror of the presidential campaign raged on. It was such a fitting symbol I wasn’t altogether sure it wasn’t an art installation. The shroud should have remained in place and painted black. Our worst fears are coming true. But I never thought that my first battle — following the energizing Women’s March — would be with my own two senators . . . for whom I have always voted!

Failing their crucial first test, both Rhode Island senators, Sheldon Whitehouse and Jack Reed, joined 12 other Dems in confirming pro-torture Rep. Mike Pompeo as director of the CIA. (WashPo 1.23.17) What were they thinking? Were promises made? (As if those would be honored.) Did Reed just rubber-stamp a fellow West Point grad? (For complete breakdown of Senate Roll Vote, WashPo.)

Why are Democrats putting their seal of approval on this or any of the Trump nominees? (Thirty Senate Democrats, as well as Republican Senator Rand Paul, had the spine to vote against the confirmation.)

Democrats should be thinking about the midterms. The Republicans will now be able to hide behind this bipartisan support when anything goes haywire. Why give them cover? (This vote should have been on the front page of the Providence Journal, suggested headline, “Rhode Island Senators Fail First Test.” A WashPo story ran on page A-11. This is a blue state. This is big news.)

I joined a few dozen outraged Rhode Islanders at Senator Whitehouse’s Providence office yesterday and spoke with Ms. Bradbury and Mr. Carvalho who listened politely and took notes. When we asked why Whitehouse had confirmed Pompeo, they said that it might have been “the lesser of two evils” and something about Pompeo agreeing to obey the law. This drew a gasp from the gathering. They then encouraged us to attend the upcoming Community Dinner at Nathan Bishop. (Whitehouse’s office was much more open and accommodating than Senator Reed’s was. More on that at a later date.)

Even though this ad hoc group had basically met for the first time in the elevator — having responded to online, social media alerts — we were unified in our outrage and our prescription for going forward: Fight everything! Why are Democrats voting ‘yes’ on any Trump appointees? This isn’t about differing political philosophies — these people have announced their intent to plunder and pillage the environment and the economy, while dismantling our democratic institutions.

And what political advantage could come of this confirmation vote? The nomination will pass — why not take a principled stand? Their vote Monday has the word “torture” attached to it — who has to think twice about this? My shock and disappointment in my two senators is extreme. I had assumed they would find Pompeo morally reprehensible; I assumed they had some fight in them; I thought they had spine. And by the way, think of the price Hillary has paid for her Iraq War vote.

Local activist Laufton Ascencao is hosting a Facebook event page in which he encourages people to arrive to Sunday’s event early.  (I have never been to one of these community dinners; I’m assuming it’s a buffet.) Laufton answered some questions, “. . . the event is first come, first serve, so there’s a chance if people arrive late they won’t be let in. That’s why we are asking everyone to show up a half hour early . . . in the past they’ve done Q&A during the actual dinner as well.”)

This Monday, Senator Whitehouse was one of only 15 Democrats to vote in support of Trump’s frightening pick for CIA director. Mike Pompeo, a Tea Party congressman who supports torture, extreme surveillance measures, and the inhumane detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. He also has a disturbing history of anti-Muslim rhetoric and climate change denial.

Whitehouse should be leading the resistance to Trump’s dangerous agenda, not surrendering in round one. And we, the people, need to draw a line in the sand and make sure that our Senators make the right, necessary choices moving forward. Meet up at 4:30 to prepare to make our voices heard.

Here is the mandate for Congressional Democrats going forward: Obstruct! Obstruct! Obstruct! Make the federal government not work — we don’t want it to work. Fight everything. Make their life a miserable hell.

Community Dinner, 5pm to 7pm, Sunday, January 29, Nathan Bishop Middle School cafeteria, 101 Sessions Street, (directions)

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