Monday, April 16, 2007

Beginning of the End--Richard Nixon Redux

It’s not always the same things that trip up presidencies, but it’s always the same attitude.

Bushnixon It’s not always the same things that trip up presidencies, but it’s always the same attitude.

The means justify supposed ends, whether that’s Iran Contras, Watergate or lying our way to war. Oh, and there’s one other small detail—justifying means requires a really small circle of sycophants. Like Bones at Princeton, only the initiated can play.

Of course you gotta keep it from coming unstuck and control is the super-glue that holds conspiracy together. One of the most amazing, admirable and truly pleasurable things about America is its shifting fingers across the levers of control. Just when business or politics thinks it has things figured out, the ground begins to move.

Patchingcracks So, we watch as the smallest things become not so small within the Bush administration. What can be patched, how smoothly and successfully, depends upon how deep the cracks run (my gut tells me, all the way to the bone). The mid-term election and its change in the stage-hands who shift political scenery, has begun to expose just how much patch-plastering has been done under the hasty paint job on a neocon Potemkin village.

Gonzales1 An Attorney General is about to be exposed as incompetent and let go; a (Bush appointed) World Bank president on the brink of being asked to step down by his own Board of Directors; a huge and deep and all but insolvable dereliction of care for our Iraq war wounded; a $46 billion Department of Homeland Security that can’t find its way to the bathroom; horrendous increases in violence since the ‘surge’ in Iraq and the president’s primary political advisor, Karl Rove, hoping to avoid congressional subpoena.

The White House must be hoping for that line from The Wiz; “The good news is there ain’t no more bad news.”

But of course George Bush is not Richard Nixon. The latter refused to turn over White House tapes of relevant conversations relating to Watergate. So, it’s an entirely different circumstance. We’re not talking about a burglary of opposition headquarters for political purposes. This is just a firing of U.S. Attorneys for political purposes and copies of relevant e-mails. That’s nowhere near the same thing.

Nixontapes And then with Nixon, there was the embarrassing eighteen minutes of ‘accidentally’ erased conversation on the tapes. Really bush-league, that. Without a blush, the Bush White House has acknowledged that it may have ‘accidentally’ lost (erased?) up to five million e-mails that congress has required it to turn over.

Eighteen minutes. Five million e-mails. Nah, not even close to comparable. We’re a long way from those five unforgettable words Richard Nixon gravely pronounced to the nation,

“I am not a crook.”

Scooterlibby Dick Nixon downplayed the Watergate break-in as mere politics. Under increasing clouds of revelation, a number of his aides resigned in disgrace. Set adrift and under questioning, they began to illuminate Nixon's role in ordering an illegal cover-up. Is Scooter Libby the tip of George Bush's iceberg?

Is he really going to accept a jail term for Dick Cheney?

Alberto Gonzales, on the other hand, is reliable enough to keep his mouth shut, no matter the consequence. But it’s not the Gonzaleses and Feiths and Wolfowitzes that get you in trouble, it’s their underlings, unwilling to be hung out to dry.

Libby is the first to flap on the White House clothes line, but the office of the Attorney General is where those with a mind for legalities are unlikely to turn in their careers for an all but failed presidency. Fortunately, George Bush’s close advisors are not of the Nixon vintage. Unless you count Colin Powell, Don Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney. Condi Rice was only nineteen when Tricky Dick took that last flight on Air Force One.

What we’re talking about here is a president stepping down before his term is over. Presidents don’t do that unless they are stricken physically ill, assassinated or impeached. This president’s vice-president is so toxic that I doubt an impeachment will be allowed that does not include him.

Cheneyspeech Nancy Pelosi has, for reasons known only to her and a few others, taken impeachment of the president off the table, as she puts it. But it may not be her call to make. And it opens the intriguing possibility of an impeachment of Cheney. That might well serve the need of the country to make this administration answer to the law, yet fall short of impeaching Bush.

Interesting possibility.

Jimmycarter America is famously accepting of incompetence in their presidents, but they have a steely disregard for liars. Jimmy Carter was among our less politically competent presidents and yet the country holds him in high regard. They didn’t reelect him, but they liked him. Bill Clinton, on the other hand, was a hugely popular and intellectually awesome president who suffers to this day from the impression that he was less than honest in his personal relationships.

George Bush is as likeable as they come, a back-slapper and nickname decider. But he lugs around the baggage of a presidency that allowed some very questionable things to go on--if not with his approval, then by looking the other way. Fair or not, Vice President Cheney is rated by the public as an overwhelmingly devious and thoroughly untrustworthy partisan, financially crooked as well. Rumsfeld is gone, but the president still hauls his luggage as well.

So, if there is to be a tipping-point in this administration, it seems we are there. It's likely, if the president survives the next several months without further disintegration within his administration, he’ll be all right. But he’s certainly going to lose Gonzales and he’s rapidly losing control on the ground and with the American public in Iraq. With the Gonzales debacle, the rats will either abandon ship or hunker down.

It’s rats that bring down presidencies.


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