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Doug Giebel: The George Bush Mulligan

The George Bush Mulligan

by Doug Giebel

During his presidency, Bill Clinton was frequently mocked for taking a "mulligan" when he played golf. Allowing the President of the United States to re-do a wayward drive should be understandable, although Clinton told Golf Digest that he didn't like to take a mulligan because it "screws your game up." Clinton should know.

Today, President George W. Bush is being handed one mulligan after another, not on the golf course, but on the playing field of politics. Presently the most egregious mulligan being granted to President Bush is the Republican majority's willingness to change wiretapping laws so they conform with the current policy of warrantless spying. Republicans and even some Democrats persist in urging the Bush Administration to permit "adjusting" (i.e., mulliganizing) the law regardless of constitutional guarantees so that the president can evade charges of deliberately breaking the law. As the mulligan process plays out to the president's advantage, warrantless wiretapping persists, and the apparent lawbreaking continues unabated.

Some duffer-prone hackers in Congress mock the notion that a mulligan is necessary. Dismissing (or ignoring) the many constitutional law experts who have condemned warrantless searches as blatantly illegal, Senator Bill Frist said,"I know the program is constitutional." One is not assured, however, since those who play on the Bush team also knew exactly where Saddam Hussein had stashed his weapons of mass destruction and are certain global warming is a liberal-wacko myth.

In his advantageous youth, George W. Bush was blessed with the good fortune to be blessed with mulligans for his indiscretions, his National Guard service, his involvement in the corporate world. He was, after all, "one of the guys," well-connected and a hell of a fund raiser. When one lives in a protected club where mulligans are permitted and encouraged, one may believe one is entitled to the "second chance" after every untoward action. It is unquestionably assumed that wealth and privilege bring a license to play by one's own rules, and a slice into the rough or the badly-muffed putt may be ignored with impunity. Those who dare question rule-breaking are spoil-sports and wet blankets who, on the national links, are smeared as traitors who give aid and comfort to the enemy.

When the government of the United States acts abusively, illegally and prevents public disclosure by classifying untoward acts as "secret," how can the people learn the truth? Recently when The New York Times unlatched information about NSA warrantless spying that the paper had been sitting on for a year, Bush Administration cheerleaders denounced the story with hyperbolic claims that disclosing the secret program seriously damaged national security, although no evidence was presented to support such an absurd notion.

Indignant politicians called for an investigation to ferret out those who had leaked the story to the Times. Even some Democratic legislators publicly denounced the leak instead of stepping up to blow the whistle themselves and expose apparently-criminal activity, thus becoming caddies for the Bush mulligan machine. Without truly furious opposition, commissions will be manipulated and stonewalled, investigations will be rained out or never conducted, criticism will be muffled, stifled, ridiculed and eventually silenced as fear of losing favor with campaign contributors and voters trumps courage, honesty and concern for the constitutional values that have set this nation apart as the true beacon of liberty. Warrantless spying, random imprisonment, life-time sentences without charges or the right to counsel or trial, torture, murder. Where does this un-fairway end? Where are Republicans and Democrats willing to take risks and apply the rule-book of common sense and fundamental constitutional fairness?

Eventually, as Bill Clinton noted, breaking the rules "screws up your game." The time has come to halt Bush Administration "mulliganizing"where handy "Get Out Of Jail Free" cards are dispensed as if they were bonbons. Much more than national honor is at stake.


Doug Giebel is an analyst and writer. He welcomes comment:

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