Sunday, February 5, 2006

Spark for a Firestorm?

The Carpetbagger Report » Blog Archive » Sunday Discussion Group: "the Senate Judiciary Committee will convene and hold major hearings into Bush's warrantless-search program, its legality, its protections for civil liberties, its challenge to the separation of powers, etc. The hearings will be the first substantive congressional response to a White House controversy since, well, since before Bush became president. The principal witness will be Attorney General Alberto Gonzales . . . "

Is this a spark in a dry tinderbox? Or, throwing water on barely smouldering ashes? Obviously, it has the potential for being either. With so many, intertangled scandals and potential scandals swirling around an unpopular President, there is a potential for a great political firestorm igniting. The problem is the absence of independent bases of political power. Our government was designed with "checks and balances" to increase the opportunties for such political firestorms to erupt, but the Republican majority has systematically eliminated rival bases of political support. It is not just that the Republican power structure behind Bush controls both the Administration and Congress -- though that is a huge part of it.

They are very close to control of the Judiciary. The Federalist Society has been an effective institutional support for the systematic appointment of very conservative Judges. With the appointment of Roberts and Alito, the only question is whether they have a conservative block of four waiting for a fifth, (or a conservative block of five already, with Breyer), to begin creating a fortress of conservative precedent. Conservative control of the Judiciary was critical in electing Bush; it was instrumental in the long-running Whitewater "independent" prosecution.

They have effective control of the mainstream Media: through Media consolidation in the 1980's and 1990's, they transformed it into a corporate, right-wing Media. Whitewater and the 2000 campaign's "War against Gore" were merely symptomatic; Talk Radio and Fox News were only precursors to Wolf Blitzer, Chris Matthews, and the conservative takeover of PBS. The Washington Post editors and ombudsman have made it clear that the Abramoff scandal is about Indians making campaign contributions, not about the Republicans creating an system of patronage through lobbyist employment, the sale of influence and access, and the management of political slush funds.

The only, slim foundation for independent action has been the professional independence of the career Civil Service, especially among the career prosecutors of the Justice Department. Bush is moving to eliminate principled supervision of the prosecution of the Abramoff case, while the unmentioned pardon power allows Libby to stymie Fitzgerald.

Watergate, the political firestorm, which engulfed Nixon, was based on a complete reversal of the current situation. The Washington Post, Judge John J. Sirica, Attorney General Richardson, the Deputy Chief of the FBI (aka Deep Throat), the Senate Watergate Committee, the House Judiciary Committee were all independent of the Nixon White House, and free to attack him.

Now, the Washington Post is a Republican paper, whose editor and ombudsman have signalled that they recognize a duty to carry Republican water; CNN, CBS, etc., please!?!. The Judiciary is dominated by conservative Republicans. The Senate and, even more, the House, are controlled by right-wing Republicans determined to cooperate with Bush and further the corruption lining their own pockets. The Attorney General is a Bush toady, without any ethical independence or competence, and committed to a legal theory, which makes Bush a virtual dictator.

All would appear to depend on solid Democratic majorities taking control of Congress in the 2006 elections. Whatever can happen in the Congress before that, or on other fronts in what is, for all intents and purposes, the beginning of a slow-burning Civil War, ought to be directed toward the elections, the increasingly all-important elections.

I wish I had some confidence that the Democrats in Congress better understood the desperate straits into which our country has entered. I think the Democrats may well find themselves in power in Congress in 2007, despite, rather than because of, their efforts. My greatest fear is that the Democrats will have a brief sojurn in power, and blow it, because they do not see the need for radical action on broad fronts. I doubt that most Democrats realize how critically important Media Reform, and the reversal of Media Consolidation has become, for the long-term future of the country and the Democratic Party.

Still, I doubt, in their current weak position, whether the Democrats would further the cause with a fight in the Judiciary Committee. I'd like to think that they could expose this arrogant, corrupt authoritarian AG, and get some needed attention. But, I can see how the whole thing could be made to backfire, as it is filtered through the corporate, right-wing Media.

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