Every day that George Bush remains in office is a reminder of the ridiculous, petty impeachment proceedings brought against Bill Clinton by the new class of Republicans, the ones that are now in power. The ones who are corrupt beyond belief, the ones who are working to dismantle the constitution and the checks and balances of government, the ones who are power and money mad.
And of course, the ones who used their power to try to bring down a president on the flimsiest of excuses; the ones who now have no excuse at all for not impeaching the current president, according to the low bar that they themselves have set.
Okay, two things this morning, both from the New York Times. First, there is an editorial that lays it on the line clearly and succinctly.
We can’t think of a president who has gone to the American people more often than George W. Bush has to ask them to forget about things like democracy, judicial process and the balance of powers — and just trust him. We also can’t think of a president who has deserved that trust less.
This has been a central flaw of Mr. Bush’s presidency for a long time. But last week produced a flood of evidence that vividly drove home the point.
DOMESTIC SPYING After 9/11, Mr. Bush authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on the conversations and e-mail of Americans and others in the United States without obtaining a warrant or allowing Congress or the courts to review the operation. Lawmakers from both parties have raised considerable doubt about the legality of this program, but Attorney General Alberto Gonzales made it clear last Monday at a Senate hearing that Mr. Bush hasn’t the slightest intention of changing it.
According to Mr. Gonzales, the administration can be relied upon to police itself and hold the line between national security and civil liberties on its own. Set aside the rather huge problem that our democracy doesn’t work that way. It’s not clear that this administration knows where the line is, much less that it is capable of defending it. Mr. Gonzales’s own dedication to the truth is in considerable doubt. In sworn testimony at his confirmation hearing last year, he dismissed as “hypothetical” a question about whether he believed the president had the authority to conduct warrantless surveillance. In fact, Mr. Gonzales knew Mr. Bush was doing just that, and had signed off on it as White House counsel.
THE PRISON CAMPS It has been nearly two years since the Abu Ghraib scandal illuminated the violence, illegal detentions and other abuses at United States military prison camps. There have been Congressional hearings, court rulings imposing normal judicial procedures on the camps, and a law requiring prisoners to be treated humanely. Yet nothing has changed. Mr. Bush also made it clear that he intends to follow the new law on the treatment of prisoners when his internal moral compass tells him it is the right thing to do.
On Thursday, Tim Golden of The Times reported that United States military authorities had taken to tying up and force-feeding the prisoners who had gone on hunger strikes by the dozens at Guantánamo Bay to protest being held without any semblance of justice. The article said administration officials were concerned that if a prisoner died, it could renew international criticism of Gitmo. They should be concerned. This is not some minor embarrassment. It is a lingering outrage that has undermined American credibility around the world.
According to numerous news reports, the majority of the Gitmo detainees are neither members of Al Qaeda nor fighters captured on the battlefield in Afghanistan. The National Journal reported last week that many were handed over to the American forces for bounties by Pakistani and Afghan warlords. Others were just swept up. The military has charged only 10 prisoners with terrorism. Hearings for the rest were not held for three years and then were mostly sham proceedings.
And yet the administration continues to claim that it can be trusted to run these prisons fairly, to decide in secret and on the president’s whim who is to be jailed without charges, and to insist that Gitmo is filled with dangerous terrorists.
THE WAR IN IRAQ One of Mr. Bush’s biggest “trust me” moments was when he told Americans that the United States had to invade Iraq because it possessed dangerous weapons and posed an immediate threat to America. The White House has blocked a Congressional investigation into whether it exaggerated the intelligence on Iraq, and continues to insist that the decision to invade was based on the consensus of American intelligence agencies.
But the next edition of the journal Foreign Affairs includes an article by the man in charge of intelligence on Iraq until last year, Paul Pillar, who said the administration cherry-picked intelligence to support a decision to invade that had already been made. He said Mr. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney made it clear what results they wanted and heeded only the analysts who produced them. Incredibly, Mr. Pillar said, the president never asked for an assessment on the consequences of invading Iraq until a year after the invasion. He said the intelligence community did that analysis on its own and forecast a deeply divided society ripe for civil war.
When the administration did finally ask for an intelligence assessment, Mr. Pillar led the effort, which concluded in August 2004 that Iraq was on the brink of disaster. Officials then leaked his authorship to the columnist Robert Novak and to The Washington Times. The idea was that Mr. Pillar was not to be trusted because he dissented from the party line. Somehow, this sounds like a story we have heard before.
Like many other administrations before it, this one sometimes dissembles clumsily to avoid embarrassment. (We now know, for example, that the White House did not tell the truth about when it learned the levees in New Orleans had failed.) Spin-as-usual is one thing. Striking at the civil liberties, due process and balance of powers that are the heart of American democracy is another.
One question, New York Times: where’s the call for impeachment?
Next up, the success of the Republican spin machine continues unabated. My own mother yesterday expressed dismay at the speeches given at Coretta Scott King’s funeral. I pointed out to her that the funeral was about Mrs. King, not being respectful to George Bush, who put in an appearance only to ensure that he had pictures taken with a few black people. [Just as an aside, take a look at Christine’s Funny Looks Black Kids Give the Bushes, which should say it all.]
The Republicans, led by Bush, have done little to bolster civil rights in this country, and for the Republicans to decry speeches denouncing that lack of effort as “bad manners” is like… well… there is no comparison that leaps to mind. Let’s just say that the right wing doesn’t exactly follow Miss Manners, okay?
Lastly, there’s this picture:
That’s the long awaited image of Bush and Abramoff in the same room. (Abramoff is obscured in the background on the left, that’s Rove’s Machiavellian visage poking in on the right.)
Now, my attitude toward this is, as always, one of non-surprise and a yawn. Of course Abramoff and Bush have met, many times. Of course Abramoff gave lots of cash to Bush. The paper trail is long and detailed. So, why are we fixated on pictures of the two of them together?
Here’s a wrinkle on the story that I’ve seen before: the astonishing lack of security in what is supposed to be a locked-down, terrorist-threatened, war-time White House. From the New York Times:
Mr. McClellan said that Mr. Abramoff’s name had not appeared on the invitation list of the May 2001 meeting and that it was unclear how the lobbyist had entered the White House grounds.
Holy crap! You mean that people can just sneak into the White House and no one knows how they got in? And after they sneak in, they manage to be in the same room with the president, lurking in the background?
Hey, how much are we paying for White House security, anyway?