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William Rivers Pitt: I Remember Democrats

I Remember Democrats

By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Monday 03 October 2005

There has been a fair amount of talk recently about the number of scandals surrounding the Bush administration and the Republican party, inspiring allusions to the historic Congressional reversal in 1994. Tom DeLay has been indicted, Bill Frist is being investigated for insider trading, and the recently indicted super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff watched his favorite White House procurement officer get arrested for obstruction. The administration was forced last week to scold conservative ubermensch Bill Bennett, who claimed the crime rate would go down if every African-American fetus were aborted.

The claws extending from these legal and ethical bear swipes are scratching a large portion of the GOP's inner power core, with the deepest cuts possibly set to be absorbed by Messrs. Karl Rove and Lewis Libby. Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is still bird-dogging the Valerie Plame case, and got himself a new and much-coveted witness after Times reporter Judy Miller walked out of her jail cell and into his Grand Jury room.

Fitzgerald's investigation into Rove and Libby's involvement in the leaking of a covert CIA operative's name to the press, according to the Washington Post, "has White House aides and congressional Republicans on edge as they await Fitzgerald's announcement of an indictment or the conclusion of the probe with no charges. The grand jury is scheduled to expire Oct. 28, and lawyers in the case expect Fitzgerald to signal his intentions as early as this week."

"A new theory about Fitzgerald's aim has emerged in recent weeks," continued the Post, "from two lawyers who have had extensive conversations with the prosecutor while representing witnesses in the case. They surmise that Fitzgerald is considering whether he can bring charges of a criminal conspiracy perpetrated by a group of senior Bush administration officials. Under this legal tactic, Fitzgerald would attempt to establish that at least two or more officials agreed to take affirmative steps to discredit and retaliate against (former Ambassador Joseph) Wilson and leak sensitive government information about his wife."

One Plame-oriented bombshell exploded on Sunday across the desk of the ABC news talk show "This Week," when host George Stephanopoulos said, "I wonder, George Will, do you think it's a manageable one for the White House especially if we don't know whether Fitzgerald is going to write a report or have indictments, but if he is able to show, as a source close to this told me this week, that President Bush and Vice President Cheney were actually involved in some of these discussions."

I wonder, George Will, what your Pucker Factor was when Stephanopoulos mentioned having a source that says the President and Vice President were involved in the conspiracy. Put it at an eight, and have that seat cushion repaired.

The waves breaking over the Bush administration's formidable seawall have as much to do with distant wars and domestic disasters as they do with the skullduggery of Republican dandies. Attempts to blame New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin for hurricane damage extending over four states have fallen short, and George W. Bush now finds himself presiding over a populace that has little or no faith in the government. There is irony here, as Bush came into office on the shoulders of people who have devoted their lives to discrediting government. It is amusing to picture, with the administration's approval ratings hovering around 40% across the board, those conservative shoulders hunched over in pain and frustration.

And then, of course, there is the war in Iraq, which goes on and on. The American dead now number one thousand nine hundred and thirty five. Fifteen troops have been killed in the last week alone. Civil war, ignored as a possibility by the celebrated minds in the White House and DoD, is emerging as the most likely outcome of the recent violence and political chaos. Noted Middle East expert Juan Cole described the roots of the looming schism in a recent article, in which he argued that the time has come for American forces to withdraw.

"The Sunni Arabs only managed to elect 17 deputies to the Parliament on Jan. 30," wrote Cole, "out of 275 seats. Three of the 17 were gifts from the major Shiite coalition (which led the more hard line Sunnis to decline to cooperate with those 3). The Sunni Arabs were virtually absent. Who was present? The election was won by the religious Shiite parties, especially the Da`wa and the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq. Even the Sadrists, most of whom were lukewarm about involvement in politics under Occupation, had more deputies than did the Sunnis! The Shiite religious parties despise the ex-Baathists (i.e. most of the Sunnis). The other winners were the Kurds, who wanted to safeguard their semi-autonomy and if anything hated the Sunni Arabs more than did the religious Shiites."

"The constitution that was fashioned by the religious Shiites and the Kurds unsurprisingly contains all sorts of goodies for Shiites and Kurds," continued Cole, "but cuts the Sunni Arabs permanently out of the deal. Substantial proportions of the oil income will stay in the provinces (i.e. Kurdistan and the Shiite South) rather than going to Baghdad. All future oil fields that are discovered and developed will be the sole property of the provincial confederation in which they are found. Most such likely fields are in the Shiite areas. All the major Sunni Arab organizations and respected political and clerical figures have come out against the constitution. Even the Iraqi political groupings that had earlier been willing to cooperate with the US boycotted the Jan. 30 elections and are now assiduously working to defeat the new constitution."

The American military is stretched to the breaking point. Enlistments are as low as they have been in memory, and the life disruptions caused by repeated deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan are motivating skilled and experienced Reservists to forgo re-enlistment. National Guard units all across the country have become so disrupted and debilitated that they are in no shape to respond energetically and effectively to domestic emergencies within their home states, as was so devastatingly evident after Hurricane Katrina.

The world sees this, and is fully aware of our inability to respond to provocative activities, such as the construction of nuclear weapons by rogue nations. The illusion of safety so assiduously crafted by the Bush administration is a sword of Damocles, hanging above our necks by a single human hair.

Matters have become so dicey for the administration that Bush was compelled to convene a counsel of crisis to confront the rising tide. The day after DeLay was indicted, Bush called newly-minted House Majority Leader Roy Blunt, House Speaker Hastert, Senate Majority Leader Frist and several others to the White House for a little chat. The meeting was partially motivated by bedlam within GOP ranks; California Republican David Dreier was supposedly headed for DeLay's seat, but was chopped down in a flurry of confusion which ultimately led to the ascendancy of the right-leaning Blunt. The larger discussion before this meeting, however, may well have been reminiscent of the last counsel held by Roman emperor Honorius as the Visigoths crested the seventh hill.

There has been one consistently missing piece of this puzzle, a piece whose absence would be unutterably galling had that absence not become so drearily predictable. With all that is assaulting the White House, the Republican majority in Congress, and indeed the entire substructure of conservative political philosophy, the absence of a vocal, united, organized Democratic opposition to crystallize the reality of our wretched estate and offer a compelling alternative is, simply, astonishing.

Call it cowardice. Call it cynical. Call it a conspiracy. Call it a custard pie, for all the good it will do. Adjectives and invective wither before the yawning abyss that stands between the words of Democratic officeholders, and the deeds they have thus far failed so completely to accomplish. One hears that they are "keeping their powder dry." All this protracted, disorganized silence leads one to assume they have the driest powder this side of the Sahara. If it does not get used soon, it will blow away like so much dust.

The leadership caste of the Democratic party - those worthies and also-rans in the Senate and the DNC - should take a walk down to the Rayburn House office building and find Representatives Conyers, Lee, Woolsey, Abercrombie, Sanders, McDermott, Waters and Waxman. This crew has been keeping good company, has been burning the midnight oil, and has been speaking the truth of this administration all day and every day. The leadership caste of the Democratic party would do well to drink deep a draught of the courage and integrity that can be found there.

There has been a fair amount of talk recently about the number of scandals surrounding the Bush administration and the Republican party, inspiring allusions to the historic Congressional reversal in 1994. Back then, it was Democratic scandals and seeming scandals that swept the Republicans into power. More than that, it was the organized, motivated and energetic actions of the GOP, which exploited the gaps and ran to daylight at every opportunity. They've been essentially running things now for eleven years, and are learning a few lessons on the dangers of hubris and the nature of the American justice system.

Yet the outcome of this will not be another historic Congressional reversal in 2006, or in 2008 for that matter, if the Democratic party continues as it has been. Give the people a choice between the devil they know and the fathomless, mindless, tidal wanderings of the deep blue sea, and they will choose the devil every single time.

Memo to the Democratic leadership, in the words of departed comic Bill Hicks: "Step on the gas, man."


William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know and The Greatest Sedition Is Silence.

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