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Cliff Schecter
Cliff Schecter
Cliff Schecter is an author, pundit and public relations strategist whose firm Libertas, LLC handles media relations for political, corporate and non-profit clients.

Gary Ackerman's important goodbye

In his retirement speech, Gary Ackerman blasted the Republican Party for the direction it's gone in.
Last Modified: 23 Dec 2012 16:09
New York House Representative Gary Ackerman, a Democrat and 15-term legislator, is retiring from politics [AP]

Today, at the end of a meeting in the House Foreign Affairs Committee on the Benghazi Consulate Attack Report, retiring  Representative Gary Ackerman, a 15-term legislative veteran from New York, delivered what can only be dubbed a jeremiad. In it, he called out the Republican Party for governing via pretty much everything Yoda warned against in The Phantom Menace. He lamented the partisanship and political games that had come to even dominate issues of national security in Washington - something always considered verboten until the past decade or so. "The train had veered off the track," as he put it.

Most recently, during this whole affair, the "train" in the equation has been represented by those wild and crazy guys of US foreign policy, John McCain and Lindsey Graham - who've turned anger into a lifestyle choice. Ostensibly, at one point, their madness had to do with UN Ambassador Susan Rice, because she went on a Sunday talk show right after the Benghazi attack and repeated talking points provided by none other than the Central Intelligence Agency.

But these obviously well-informed gentlemen just couldn't handle the truth. "She got the talking points from the Administration!" they croaked. "She's unqualified," they screeched! "We have more questions!" they burbled.

And they got their white whale. Rice, due to the very behaviour Ackerman was decrying today, removed her own name from consideration for the position last week, announcing "I didn't want to see a confirmation process that was very prolonged, very politicised, very distracting and very disruptive because there are so many things we need to get done as a country..."

 Susan Rice drops out of Secretary of State race

So, were McCain and Graham playing political games, as Ackerman would say, or was their racism involved in the McCain/Graham jihad against Rice, or was it something else? There's no doubt some of the oldest and most pernicious stereotypes hurled at African Americans in the US were used against her, as her intelligence and work ethic were questioned. By none other than John McCain, mind you, who graduated 894th out of 899 students at the Naval Academy - also known as "getting in because you have the same last name as your Admiral father and grandfather". I mean, there are proably potted plants in Annapolis that gave McCain a run for his money in class ranking.

In any case, those on the Right screamed that it couldn't have been racism - I mean Graham and McCain both supported Condoleezza Rice for crying out loud! Why yes, yes they did.

So here's a funny story - in the sense where "funny" means "tragic". Condi Rice had went on Sunday shows in order to, in her case, lie the United States into a war in Iraq, dissembling with verve about not wanting the "smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud".

As Ackerman noted today, these very Republicans were not so keen to investigate that particular travesty (some might even call it, what's that term again - oh yeah, a war crime), even though not 4, but 4,000 US troops are dead because of it (Ackerman was being too kind, it's almost 4,500). This of course doesn't even count the toll in suffering and death that has been visited upon Iraq.

The first Rice accomplished all this after being installed by George W Bush in 2001, so she could immediately start receiving dozens of warnings about an imminent al-Qaeda attack, and studiously ignore them, while paying extra special attention to 1987's most dangerous enemy, Russia (feel the Romnesia).

But that Rice was still worthy of support from McCain and Graham, the Laurel and Hardy of Shorja Market rug shopping. You see, she may have promoted a war based lies and fearmongering, but so were the dynamic duo, who to this day still won't admit that war was a wonderful idea - you know like remaking Red Dawn or nominating Sarah Palin to be vice president.

And that brings us back to Ackerman, and the important words this longtime Washington denizen spoke today. Ackerman was clear that we need two functioning parties for our democracy to work - and right now, as far as I'm concerned, the Republican Party comes closer every day to representing some kind of Neo-Confederate Cult, where if the South can't rise again, their 19th Century sensibilities should give it the old college try.

What happened in Benghazi was a terrible tragedy. But you know what was even worse? Iraq. And 9/11. And frankly, Newtown, Connecticut. It would be nice if the Republican Party still had enough statesman to care half as much about preventing the next one of those massacres as they do for scoring political points in Washington.

Cliff Schecter is an author, pundit and public relations strategist whose firm Libertas, LLC handles media relations for political, corporate and non-profit clients. 

Follow him on Twitter: @CliffSchecter

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The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.

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