Thursday, August 2, 2007

Democrats Confront Bush's Fredo

As we enter the month of August, everyone is acting true to form. The Bush Crime Family, unlike the Corleones, has decided, for now, not to do in Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, their Fredo figure. The Pelosiite leadership in Congress has decided to ignore the will of the majority of Democratic voters and of increasingly many independent and Republican voters too on the impeachment of Dick Cheney and then George W. Bush. Unlike George H.W, who would turn on a dime if a flunky of his became troublesome (think Manuel Noriega or, for that matter, Saddam Hussein), the son stands by his flunkies to the point of ludicrousness. Meanwhile, the Democrats are ludicrously misguided about how best to advance their own parochial interests. Needless to say, they are still cowardly too. But if Democrats in the Senate Judiciary Committee have the courage to follow through with procedures they have already set in motion – a very big if – and if circumstances don’t intervene to make the issue moot, then maybe, before long, the Democrats will find themselves doing the right thing despite themselves. They’re at risk of finding themselves in impeachment mode – not, if they can help it, against Cheney and Bush, but against that twosome’s hapless but loyal AG.

There is no question that it would be good for the rule of law if Gonzales were put out of the Justice Department, and it would be a good thing too if the Democrats put him out. It might even help move them to take the obvious next steps. But “if history has shown us anything,” it is not just that anybody can be killed, as Michael Corleone maintained (correctly, it turned out), but also that no one should expect much from Democrats. Even if the Democrats do get the impeachment effort underway, they are likely to stall out after Bush’s Freddo gets his due.

However the fact that the impeachment of Gonzales is now “on the table,” even in the view of the editors of The New York Times, raises an interesting question: what does it take to get Democrats, including “progressive” Democrats, to act like (small-d) democrats should?

Gonzales’s impeachment, if it happens, will provide data relevant for reflecting on that question. But there is already much to reflect on, now that almost all Democrats, even the most Clintonized among them, say that they have turned against the Iraq War. In both word and deed, the vast majority of Congressional Democrats were Bush aiders and abettors long after majority opinion turned against Bush’s war. Of course, in our “democracy,” the median dollar matters more than the median voter. Even so, most Democrats stood by Bush long after it became clear as well to most of their paymasters that Bush’s war was a lost cause. To this day, they won’t defund it, though it is clear as can be that to fund the war is to support it. The difference now is only that to a woman and man, all Democrats proclaim their opposition. Still, it is something of a victory that all leading Democrats now say that the war was planned and waged incompetently or that it has become too costly to win; in other words, that “mistakes were made” and that the thing to do now is to cut the losses.

This parallels what happened with “liberal” opinion during the Vietnam War. After Tet, when both public and elite opinion finally turned against the war, similar reasons were advanced for getting out of Vietnam; the problem was not that the U.S. had no business there in the first place – it was that the war had turned into a “quagmire.” In both cases, the implication is that it would have been wonderful had these wars turned out differently. Had the Iraq war been a “cake walk,” as the neo-cons promised, be assured that it would be a non-issue today in Democratic Party circles – much like Bill Clinton’s murderous Iraq sanctions or his brutal aerial attacks on Serbia. During the Vietnam “quagmire,” as in the present one, there were “doves” who wanted to cut America’s losses and “hawks” who wanted “to stay the course” -- not to win, since that could only happen in their dreams, but in order to keep the country from “falling apart.” There were exceptions then, as now; politicians who joined the people in thinking the war not just a lost cause, but a cause that should be lost. Mike Gravel was one of few exceptions back then; he is one of few exceptions now. He joins Dennis Kucinich and the handful of “progressives” in the Progressive Caucus, a tiny minority within that group, who oppose this Bush war on principled grounds. These political outliers are now, as then, of one mind with ever growing numbers of people. One would never know it, though, from the Congressional Record or, worse still, The New York Times.

Similarly, in the Pelosiite calculus, the wrongness of keeping Cheney and Bush in office is not the issue. The question is what will advance the Democrats’ electoral prospects in 2008; in other words, what will further the prospects of a Clintonite Restoration, empowering the likes of Richard Holbrooke, Joe Biden (now running against Holbrooke for Secretary of State) and the doyenne of the Iraq sanctions, Secretary of State Madelyn Albright. It takes a Condoleezza to make her look good. How many lives are Democrats willing to sacrifice for that possible future?

The question for Democrats in the coming weeks will be whether the House Judiciary Committee, chaired by John Conyers, will have the courage to enforce contempt citations against Bush Crime Family figures like Harriet Miers (who might now be on the Supreme Court, had not the Republican God squad, not the Democrats, blocked her way!) and White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten; and, whether their Senate counterparts will move against Gonzales and Karl Rove. I wouldn’t bet on it. But even if they do, so long as they hold that the problem is just that “mistakes were made,” so long as they do not join Gravel and Kucinich and the others in principled opposition to a crime against humanity and a crime against the peace, they themselves are worthy of contempt --- not in the technical legal sense that they have now brought into play, but according to the word’s literal and utmost meaning.

Note: There is mounting evidence that popular support for impeachment is moving close to the point that the Democratic Party’s official position might actually tip, as happened more than two years ago with support for the Iraq War. However, in this instance, time is short; and there is little chance that the party’s leaders will act in time. Still, it is good news that in the past two weeks, more “progressives” have signed on to HR 333. This proposal, to begin impeachment proceedings against Dick Cheney, now has 34 co-sponsors! Read about it here . This is progress. But how many more must die before all those other “progressives” get on board?

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