Monday, December 15, 2008

Why Bush Is Not Going Away (Gracefully) (Ever)

I'm sure Rahmbo will come out of the Blago horror show smelling like a rose (or maybe skunk cabbage?). After all, it's not illegal to talk with a Governor about whom is the wisest choice for the Senate seat of the now President-Elect (yes, I'm just guessing here, but it could have happened); on the other hand, it is interesting to find out that after making his pile by using "his political connections to broker major deals while at the (Wasserstein Perella) firm. (One deal was a $16 billion merger that created Exelon Corp., now one of the nation's largest electric utilities. Another involved SBC Communications, the telecommunications company run by William Daley, Clinton's commerce secretary and the brother of Chicago's mayor)" that he was accused by his Republican opponents of using his own money ($450,000) to buy his seat in Congress (shades of Hillary and everyone else who lent themselves money for political power (gasp - fake horror!). And there is a very good reason why he is deemed one of the Chicago "Untouchables."

After Emanuel left banking to run for Congress, members of the securities and investment industry became his biggest backers, donating more than $1.5 million to his campaigns dating back to 2002, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Mr. Emanuel also leaned heavily upon the industry while he was chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee during the 2006 midterm elections. Financial industry donors contributed more than $5.8 million to the committee, behind only retirees. Once he reached Congress, Emanuel served on the Financial Services Committee, which handles legislation involving financial markets and banks.
Isn't it nice to see the Democratic politicos able to use the wheels of capitalism to fund the good guys? Kinda like what happens on K Street in D.C. with each new administration. Enough Chicago fun (or even New York fun as Caroline Kennedy announces she is asking Governor Paterson to appoint her to Hillary's seat). Back to the real business of trying to fathom the origins and reach of the U.S.'s current political and financial calamities. After the much-covered Grand Tour/preening around of our (ex-good guy to have a beer with) self-appointed "Decider," and his laughing off of an Iraqi reporter's (Muntadhar al-Zeidi - who "stood up about 12 feet from Mr. Bush and shouted in Arabic: 'This is a gift from the Iraqis; this is the farewell kiss, you dog!' He then threw a shoe at Mr. Bush, who ducked and narrowly avoided it" - now jailed in U.S.-owned and -controlled Iraq after being severely beaten by the Iraqi security forces*) response who had undoubtedly suffered enough personal abuse, if not murders or perhaps the extradition of family members due to "W"'s policies, I keep coming back to the same thoughts: "Why would "W" ever leave? How can he leave safely?" If he leaves and the duly-elected Barack Obama takes over the helm of government on January 20, won't he be putting every well-connected and monied enterprise that chose him for that position in jeopardy (and ultimately exposure to criminal charges)? And if these power-brokers were able through their control of the media (and possibly international events) to have solidified his ability to be at the apex of power in order to guarantee their influence over and control of the government's purse and world events, wouldn't they be lax in their planning if they allowed someone else to assume the position (so to speak)? Granted, Obama is doing everything humanly possible to allay the suspicions of those on the right about his left-leaningness, but it still doesn't ring true that they would leave willingly with so many shoes left to drop financially. (And please let me say that I absolutely adore his choice for Secretary of Energy!) As the U.S. prepares to send an enormous number of new troops into Afghanistan (and perhaps Iraq as well) and continues to make noises about how Iran is a current threat to the U.S. (accompanied by an incoming Secretary of State (Hillary) who has already threatened to wage nuclear conflict to stop their use of nuclear power), we would do well to consider the words of Barbara Lee as she voted "No" three days after 9/11 to the plan to attack Afghanistan:
on Sunday morning, viewers across the country saw Barbara Lee speaking on the House floor three days after 9/11 -- just before she became the only member of Congress to vote against the president's green-light resolution to begin the U.S. military attack on Afghanistan. "However difficult this vote may be, some of us must urge the use of restraint," she said. The date was Sept. 14, 2001. Congresswoman Lee continued: "Our country is in a state of mourning. Some of us must say, Let's step back for a moment, let's just pause just for a minute, and think through the implications of our actions today so that this does not spiral out of control." And she said: "As we act, let us not become the evil that we deplore."
These thoughts occurred to me during the weeks after the 9/11 attacks when I was teaching at a small university in North Carolina where in every class I tried to help the students make sense of an attack by (mainly) Saudi Arabians supposedly under orders from a very well-connected Saudi Arabian who was the scion of the family that had been incredibly enriched by the building projects stemming from the money connections arising from deals struck between the Saudi royal family and the Bush/Raygun coalition. During that increasingly fearful time, I asked my class questions (and they asked me many also) about the reporting of the strike on the World Trade Center, the fall of the buildings and the strange idea that U.S. officials knew almost immediately exactly who had been the perpetrators. I won't go into that evidence in detail here, but I did so in order to help my students clarify their feelings and fears about an event that seemed to be cloaked in secrecy no matter how loud and pervasive the reporters' questions were. One issue that dominated our discussions again and again was "How do you wage an effective war on a concept - a strategy - a tactic?" The War on Terror at first consideration seemed like an off-the-cuff idea ventured in an old-time, smoke-filled room by a politico straining for a task vague enough to be a neverending quest requiring constant flailing at the dark leading to (perhaps) permanent political dominance by those in power. But I didn't actually mean to get into the Rove/Cheney conspiracy for permanent Republican control of the USA now. That's been covered elsewhere although it always seems to be a logical next thought at this conversational juncture. Robert Parry addresses these issues in his book (which I recommend as a fine Christmas present for true patriots (whoever they may be)) Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush. What I've admired for some time now about Parry (and his sons who share writing credit with him) is his single-mindedness in trying to fathom not only who this First Bumbler is, but how he came to be seen as someone with the competence to run the government of the most complex political entity in the history of the world after a lifetime of failed executive ventures that always led to his being bailed out by his Father's friends, and essentially walking away enriched by other people's money.
In Campaign 2000, the Republican advantages in media guaranteed a rosier glow around GWB's attributes and a harsher light on Al Gore's shortcomings. Many voters said they found Bush more likable - "a regular guy" - while viewing Gore as a wonky know-it-all, who "thinks he's smarter than we are." That was, at least in part, a reflection of how the two candidates were presented by the dominanat news media outlets, from Fox News to The New York Times. For his part, Bush exploited the anti-intellectualism of many Americans to his political advantage, even disparaging his former classmates at Yale as "so intellectually superior and so righteous." Many Americans also came to view Bush as that natural leader they often encounter in their everyday lives. He was, in a sense, the alpha male on the cruise ship, who would lead the pack from the elevator to the all-you-can-eat buffet bar, the guy who wuold keep everyone tittering with jokes at the expense of others. Blessed with a full head of hair himself, Bush especially enjoyed poking fun at bald men, sometimes playfully rubbing their pates in public or making their baldness the butt of his jokes. The talented Republican image-makers turned Bush's banter into proof that he was a "politically incorrect" politician who didn't play by conventional rules. He was, they said, a refreshing alternative to the endless parade of consultant-driven, poll-tested candidates - though, in reality, Bush's image was as consultant-driven and poll-tested as anybody's, down to his purchase of a 1600-acre ranch in Crawford, Texas, in 1999, just before running for the White House. Then, after the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, less than nine months into Bush's presidency, the American people invested their hopes in Bush's natural leadership skills. The U.S. news media and the opposition Democrats also granted Bush extraordinary deference. Bush's political advisers, his neoconservative foreign policy aides, and his allies in the right-wing media saw the 9/11 crisis as an opportunity to strengthen their ideological grip on power. They could use it to demonize their remaining liberal critics, settle some old scores in the Middle East, and possibly lock in permanent Republican control of the U.S. government. It was in that climate of both voluntary and enforced unity that Bush sought a fundamental transformation of the U.S. constitutional system, asserting what his legal advisers called the "plenary" - or unlimited - powers of Commander-in-Chief at a time of war. Under Bush's post-9/11 presidential theories, he could ignore laws passed by Congress. He simply attached a "signing statement" declaring that he would not be bound by any restrictions on his authority. As for laws enacted before his presidency, those, too, could be cast aside if they infringed on his view of his own power. Bush could override constitutional provisions that protected the rights of citizens. He could deny the ancient right of habeas corpus guaranteeing due process and a fair trial - if he designated someone an "enemy combatant." He could order warrantless wiretaps, waiving the Fourth Amendment's requirement for court-approved search warrants based on "probable cause." He could authorize CIA and U.S. military interrogators to abuse and torture captives if he thought that was necessary to make them talk. He could order assassinations of anyone he deemed a "terrorist" or somehow linked to "terrorism." He could take the nation to war with or without (C)ongressional consent. Also, Bush's "war on terror" was unique in American history because it knew no limits either in time or space. It was, by definition, an indefinite conflict fought against a vague enemy on a global battlefield, including the American homeland. After reviewing Bush's broad assertions of power, former Vice President Al Gore asked in a 2006 speech: "Can it be true that any President really has such powers under our Constitution? If the answer is 'yes,' then under the theory by which these acts are committed, are there any acts that can on their face be prohibited?" The answer to Gore's rhetorical question was clearly "no." Theoretically, at least, there were no boundaries for Bush's plenary powers. In the President's opinion, his powers were constrained only by his own judgment. He was as Bush called himself the nation's "war president," "the decider," "the unitary executive." Indeed, looking at Bush's arrogation of powers in total, the troubling conclusion was that the nation's treasured "unalienable rights," which were proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence and enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, no longer applied, at least not as something guaranteed or "unalienable." They were now optional. They belonged not to each American citizen as a birthright, but to George W. Bush as Commander in Chief who got to decide how those rights would be parceled out. Under Bush's theory of his boundless powers, the only safeguard left for American citizens - and for people around the world - was Bush's assurance that his limitless authority would be used to stop "bad guys" and to protect the homeland. Patriotic Americans would not feel any change, he promised. They could still go to their jobs, to the shopping mall or to baseball games. Only those who were judged threats to the national security would find themselves in trouble. That list kept growing, however, to include terrorist "affiliates," "any person" who aids a terrorist, and government "leakers" who might divulge Bush's secret decisions.
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*Mr. Maliki’s security agents jumped on the man, wrestled him to the floor and hustled him out of the room. They kicked him and beat him until “he was crying like a woman,” said Mohammed Taher, a reporter for Afaq, a television station owned by the Dawa Party, which is led by Mr. Maliki. Mr. Zaidi was then detained on unspecified charges. (Bush later) called the incident a sign of democracy, saying, “That’s what people do in a free society, draw attention to themselves,” as the man’s screaming could be heard outside. But the moment clearly unnerved Mr. Maliki’s aides and some of the Americans in Mr. Bush’s entourage, partly because it was televised and may have revealed a security lapse in the so-called Green Zone, the most heavily secured part of Baghdad. In the chaos, Dana M. Perino, the White House press secretary, who was visibly distraught, was struck in the eye by a microphone stand.
PLUS ONE! Must give a shout-out to Driftglass' Sunday Morning Mouse Circus Coming Down. It almost makes it worth living through these stroked-out, waiting-for-the-gong weeks before total annihilation descends. (Great HST tributes found here.)
Carly Fiorina, Failed CEO of Hewlett-Packard: Having driven HP into the ground and advised the McCain campaign into oblivion, I apparently still have a job. So wheeeeee!
Suzan ____________________________


Serving Patriot said...


Yes. It will be interesting to see if our new President can give up "the ring" of powers he inherits on 1/20/09. Part of me wishes he would use the ring's powers to smash and punish those who made it in the first place. Most especially that bumbling decider and his evil, small consort Big Time Dick.

But as you point out - as Babara Lee pointed out - let us not become the evil we deplore. I was not much of a fan of hers at the time, but I do also remember wondering how will we know if Al Qaeda had won? Surely they could not win merely by killing our citizens! But they could win if we let our actions play to their desires (embroiled in an asian land war, hated by the muslim people, bankrupted and isolated). And where are we now? Let's hope we can climb back from the brink and return to our nature.

Thanks for your thoughts today on this. When I saw those shoes flying - I thought it an elegant tribute to the end of the Decider's reign.

Now if we could only get a commitment that we'll investigate and prosecute those who abused our trust.


Suzan said...

I love ya, SP!

It would be a moment of great national acclaim to have the Big O fling that ring into the swirling vortex of the River Styx, and use his Justice Dept., newly populated with proper learned adjudicators (perhaps Fitz could be tempted to help straighten out this mess also?), to bring the hundreds of known felons in the current administration to the dock on charges that will make legal history.

In this way the acknowledged (by Cheney recently) evil of the BushLeagueCheneGang will be made public and just punishment will then be able to be meted out.

We owe these deeds to our progeny as just retribution for the horror show we've been forced to take part in by being a citizen of this lawless country for the last 8 years.

An "elegant tribute" indeed, my friend.