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October 08, 2007


EW - without having read Bernstein's book, my take is:

1) the well-documented ability of the press to parrot Republican talking points without any well-planned or even poorly orchestrated Democratic response has created an environment where Democrats are comfortable with the fear of smear (much like a battered spouse remains in the relationship). This fear has become paralyzing, resulting in,

2) Democrats taking impeachment off the table for fear that it would be looked upon as revenge for the Clinton impeachment, without even the slightest consideration of the merits of impeachment. Another possiblity is that Pelosi is afraid that Republicans would attack her for attempting a coup if she pursued impeachment of Bush and Cheney, given that she's the next in line for the Presidency if impeachment were to be successful.

3) Having successfully banished the Democrats into their self-induced paralysis, Republicans began to place loyalty to party over loyalty to the Constitution and supposed "core" Republican values, which resulted in,

4) Incredible hardball politics within the Republican party, such that folks like Jim Jeffords felt abandoned. When it was clear that middle of the road Republicans like Jeffords were no longer welcome in the GOP, a further shift to the right was cemented by the likes of Delay and Rove.

5) Once this shift was accomplished, any oversight capabilities of Congress disappeared. Republicans strongly believed in the lie of one-party dominance but never recognized they had acquired a Soviet-style subservance to those at the top, which...

6) Left the door wide open to hubris, Rove's "math", and the inability to recognize the 2006 electoral defeat, which...

7) Subsequenlty thrilled Democrats and left them hungry for greater electoral gains in 2008. In the view of the Democrats, the 2006 electoral gains were the result of Republican ineptitude, corruption, incompetance, Katrina, and Iraq, and not the specific result of a strongly marketed Democratic brand that appealed to Americans. Democrats see this behavior continuing unabated all the way to 2008 and believe they are going to ride the same horse to victory without having to lift a finger other than to keep the Republican failures in the news (accomplished via half-hearted hearings), which...

8) Allows the Democrats to take impeachment off the table because they're afraid of Republicans and the press branding it as petty revenge for the Clinton impeachment or a Pelosi coup attempt.

Hi EW, I ponder this a lot myself having grown up watching the Watergate hearings....In addition to Apache Trout's comments (great list!) I would add careerism on the part of journalists, corporate ownership of news sources, increasing tolerance and perhaps even an appetite for scandals...more TV channels to fill with noise.

Also, oversight is now reduced to a balancing act between the existing political parties (which is not very effective "you did this!" "you did it, too!) vs. rules of law that everyone stands behind and supports for the strength and security of society.

A burgeoning civilian population that doesn't necessarily learn the importance of civics and participation in its government could also be a factor.

I would also point to a decline in a sense of community and more focus on making a pile of money as witnessed during the go-go '80s. Which is probably too broad a brush to paint with.

We're all about power, now, and who can get away with what. FWIW. All that said, with a great big fat majority of public opinion for impeachment, I don't know what more Nancy Pelosi would need to put it on the table.

There has been some great reporting, much of it in The New Yorker. Thank you Seymour Hersch and Hendrik Hertzberg. More in the McClatchy papers.
Damn little in The New York Times, and even less in The Washington Post.

Of course Bernstein excuses the press. He's one of them. Do you think he's gonna rip David "The Dean" Broder or David "Bobo" Brooks to shreds? Or Fred Hiatt? Or the NYT? He's not going to rip his own industry.

Does the public really know how Bush has been shredding the Constitution? I would bet over 60% of the people have no clue or in the case of the Republicans, don't care. When does the news ever report on it? Rarely, if ever.

Republicans have placed party over the Constitution. How much discussion was there of the war? Look at things now. Hardly any Republicans are breaking with Bush over the war. They are blinded by party affiliation that they'll follow The Decider of the cliff. They are so far gone, they sticking with The Chimperor knowing full well it might cost them more seats in the House, and might cost that the chance to filibuster in the Senate. That tells you all you need to know. They are sticking with Mr 25% at the risk of their own political life.

I spoke with someone from Pelosi's office this weekend.They said that Pelosi's point of view is that they need to look forward to the future and not be mired in the past with regards to the Bush administration. Therefore impeachment is still off of the table. They said Pelosi thinks the main goal is to win in '08 and that is what the dems have to focus on. I asked isn't it the responsibility of Congress to hold the Bush administration accoutable for violating the law(illegal wire tapping program, lying to Congress and the american people about the war, USA firings, torture memos, signing statements, Plame outing, etc., etc), but I got the feeling that that is definately not their priority. I don't understand why democratic leadership thinks that standing up for the Constitution and the rule of law is going to loose them the respect of the American people and the election?

* Bernstein blames Congress, implicitly excusing the press and the courts--or at least not commenting on their failure. Do you agree with his assessment, or do you think he's just being polite?

I think that's fair--given the context of each of the different times--but, I don't think he's entirely excusing the press and the courts. By saying that all the institutions did their jobs then implicitly says they haven't now.

But, regardless, the oversight has to come from Congress, one way or another, and the political milieu of the last two or three decades--combined with the radical change in tone and temperament brought to fruition by Gingrich--hasn't predisposed Congress to act responsibly in that regard.

* Somewhere during the early days of TNH, (Kagro? help?) Kagro did a great post suggesting that the Republicans neutralized the possibility of impeachment with the Clinton impeachment. Is that it? Or are there other reasons behind the changed ways the public has responded to Bush's shredding of the Constitution?

I don't think there's any question that the `pugs cheapened the impeachment process by politicizing it to the extreme degree they did (it's always political in some way, but they truly made a three-ring circus out of it--so much for gravitas). At the same time, they were acting in the moment and didn't know that Bush would run and win, nor did the `pugs know that al-Qaeda would strike on 9/11/2001, and the confluence of those events made exploiting the tragedy much easier for the Bushies, and made it much easier for Bush to wrap himself in the flag and declare his sacred mission to be the protection of the public.

That, initially, gave him a lot of political room to move. Had Bush done the things he's done without the justification (in the view of the Bushies) of the attacks, had his actions and intentions been apparent right from the start, the `pugs might have been terrified not about the 2008 election, but, rather, the 2002 and 2004 elections. And yet, because of the steady, inexorable `pug march to place party over institutions (such as Congress), even then, I don't think the `pugs would have had the stomach to impeach him.

* Would Republican oversight have been enough? That is, was there ever a time when Bernstein's answer--congressional oversight--was a real possibility, or had Republicans simply placed their party ahead of the Constitution irrevocably?

Generally, see above. The principal reason for sensible Republicans denying their party their votes in 2006 has been the radicalization of that party. It's not respectable any longer, and has taken on the attributes of a criminal cult. For that reason, there was no oversight, and what oversight the `pugs might have provided would be a whitewash--by intention--these guys don't ever admit to error or wrongdoing.

That there hasn't been a lot more oversight now is a function of the timidity of the Democrats (with some notable exceptions, like Waxman's committee work). So, even now, effective oversight is limited by the environment built up over the years. It was, after all, Lee Hamilton who chose not to put the clamps on a "popular" president during the Iran-Contra hearings. That sort of accumulated baggage, especially after twelve years of absolute control of Congress by the Republicans, persists. Pelosi was wrong for removing impeachment as an option (if only because it gave a green light to the Bushies to go on doing what they'd been doing previously), but, I'm not surprised that she did. She'd hefted those bags a couple of times, and found them too much for her to throw out, no matter what the sentiment of the public. She also knew that the current Beltway press would savage her if she didn't distance herself from the issue of impeachment. She also knew that the Republicans of today aren't the Republicans of yesteryear, and would move in lockstep to defend Bush and/or Cheney.

Short answer: the times are different, and there's no reason to believe that they aren't (more so because of thirty-five years of Republican organization and propaganda, than of 9/11). Bernstein acknowledges that--backhandedly--by saying that, in 1973, all the institutions worked to drive a criminal president out of office. Now, they can't or won't. Even if he doesn't say it outright, I get the sense he's acknowledging that.

Wonderful post EW, and wonderful responses so far (and probably additional ones to come, as this site generates thoughtful and reasoned discussion).

To the Bernstein critique of Congress, and the critiques of the "steno pool" that once was the fourth estate, I think there are many broader critiques that could made, distinguishing between 1973 (when the Watergate Senate hearings took place) and now, such as the change-over in the Republican party from an Establishmentarian institution to an authoritarian anti-American gang.

There is no doubt in my mind, however, that the press in 1973 took its main cues from Congress in reporting Watergate. The reporting in the post kept the story alive inside the Beltway. Judge Sirica put the pressure on the criminal defendants in the break-in (just as Walton put pressure on Scooter in Plamegate).

Congress, through its hearings and its investigation, made the story the exercise in civic judgment that it became. The Saturday Night Massacre inspired outrage because principled officials in both parties understood that the institutions of government were being undermined.

Bush and the Republicans corrupted the institutions, and the Dems have not restored them.

The pressure on Libby gets releived with commutation, and the Dems say, "so what?"

DOJ gets corrupted, and the White House conceals emails at the RNC, and officials refuse to honor subpoenas, and the Dems say, "Well, we are going to pick our battles."

The press reports nothing because cowardly Dems in Congress give them nothing to report, by refusing to fight when they are in the right.

Between invertebrate Dems and Jonestown Republicans, I still pick the Dems, but.......man, you have to hold your nose.

Great question, EW.

I talk a lot with family and friends who don't follow politics. One thing I've noticed is that once they learn what Bush has done, they are outraged. However, there is a very real sense of helplessness among people that I talk to. They don't believe elected officials listen to the opinions of constituents.

Also, there is an inability to be able to "read between the lines" of the press. Most people know what they're reading, or seeing on tv, is not the whole story, but they are at a loss (and usually dog-tired after work) as to how to fill in the blanks.

This country could really use a centralized, easy-to-navigate, political database where the public could regularly check on their elected reps and contact them, if need be.

I know Congress would hate to have us looking over their shoulder, but the only real oversight that we can count on is the kind where we are doing the oversight.

EW -- the Watergate situation has to be followed with a timeline to see how one piece of it fed the next, and no true buffers to throw it off center were ultimately possible. From the moment of the capture in the DNC, there was a simple breaking and entering case in criminal court, and within hours, a civil case filed by the DNC against the Director of Security for CREEP, (and just retired CIA Technical Section Director) James McCord, who had been arrested in the DNC. Two days later Woodstein published the small matter that Howard Hunt's WH phone number was in the Cuban Crew's effects. McCord worked for Mitchell, Hunt worked for Colson -- so within hours Watergate was one degree away from Nixon himself. Moreover, those facts were in both the Civil and Criminal cases. And Hunt, Liddy, McCord and the others had been sloppy, they never anticipated getting caught by the out of uniform vice police of the DC force. (Larry Craig somehow forgot the vice cops), They cashed checks through their own accounts, they put CREEP checks into the easily unwound Mexican Laundry. Woodstein had a whole summer full of fun tracking down the leads -- particularly after someone was willing to give then a Phone Directory for CREEP. Congress really took no notice at all up till the Wright Patman hearings in October in the House, and he was denied powers to subpoena by a majority of Democrats on the Banking Committee. It was not till February that the Senate took up the motion to create the Ervin Committee, which was not about Watergate, but about how well the new Campaign Finance Laws had worked in the 1972 election. In fact if someone had gotten pregnant at the time of the first break-in, the baby would have arrived before the Senate acted and authorized Ervin's committee.

The only hero of pre-Ervin committee in Watergate was Judge Sirica, who did his own cross examination during the trial given that he guessed both the Government and Defense Lawyers were playing games with him with their sudden guilty pleas, and his suspicion that pardon deals had been on offer -- something confirmed in March by McCord's letter, and to which McCord would testify before the Ervin Committee in mid May.

In otherwords, for months the thing that kept "Watergate" on track was the Criminal and Civil cases, and the fact that Sirica was unwilling to play any cover-up games. The chief judge, Richie who had the DNC civil case did play games, met with RNC lawyers in private, followed by obtuse rulings that denied the DNC the rights to take certain timely depositions.

What Woodward and Bernstein accomplished between June 72 and Jan, 1973 was to keep the matter in the news -- but mostly they "followed the money" which while interesting, did not really get us inside the White House and the Command and Control of the initial operations, and then the Coverup. It was Sirica's intervention in the trial before him that broke the effort to sidetrack and get things out of the court's jurisdiction. I would also note that it was not till John Sirica had made his push in the January 73 trial that the Senate woke up and started talking about a Resolution and an Ervin Committee, with the subpoena power that had been denied to Wright Patman in October.

Interesting question about Watergate that has rarely been asked -- Where in the Hell did John Sirica come from? It is interesting. He was a night school lawyer, did lots of pick-up criminal work around the DC Courts, never really a star, never with a named firm, -- but John Sirica was a boxer, and he more or less worked his way through Law School as a sparing partner to various local pro boxers in DC, and he also taught boxing for a time at Fort Meyer. When Eisenhower was just a Major working for Douglas McArthur in the early 30's, he took some boxing lessons from Sirica, and more than learning the elements of Boxing, Sirica filled him in on the fight game culture. When Ike became President, he appointed Sirica a District Judge, a kind of patronage appointment that was less about politics, and more just about an old friendship. So about 20 years later Sirica was Senior Judge, and after years more or less on the margins and uncelebrated, I suspect he saw the Watergate matters through the lens of the culture of the local fight game, which was what he shared with his patron, Eisenhower. I have always thought this element of the relationships involved in Watergate has been totally unexplored. Ike never liked or respected Nixon -- and I suspect that sentiment was in play. In Sirica's world, Manly, was about an honest fight within the rules. I can't imagine a single character involved in Watergate actually getting any sympathetic understanding from him.

The truth is, Pelosi is simply not up to the job of being the Speaker. A long career in which she acquired the skills to win the Speaker's role taught her skills of going along to get along which are the antithesis of what she needs for the job she is now in. I wrote up the history of my congresswoman here. One of the consequences of the long Republican corruption of the House is that we have the wrong Democrats in the places of power who have learned the wrong lessons.

I think we are living in different times. I was shocked to the core by COINTELPRO, the violence of some of the antiwar protesters, the civil rights marches, etc. (I was very young). The idea of the government spying on the general public, perverting the media, messing with elections particularly in black areas - all that was counter the cold war era schooling of the 50's and 60's that we are the good guys, and we don't do that sort of thing. By getting rid of Nixon and Hoover, many people thought the rotten apples were gone and we could return to mom and apple pie.

Now, people accept wire tapping as a given - if you've done nothing wrong there should be no problem is the general idea. Larry Ellison (Oracle Corp. - mega databases) says, "Any idea of privacy that you have is mostly an illusion." Scott Nealy puts it more succintly, "You have no privacy, get over it." These are industry gods, and they accept that their products can be easily manipulated to violate an awful lot of Constitutional Amendments. If they are not worried, should the rest of the population be worried? It looks like somewhere civic responsibility got left out of the DNA of the American People.

People now accept media consolidation and manipulation, even to a greater extent than in the times of the Hearst Yellow Journalism. That is why there is so much reading between the lines on the Israeli bombing of Syria. One feels empathy for the Russians reading Pravda and trying to guess what really happened, as opposed to the party line. When English Aljazeera is a primary news source - well - that says it all.

There is an acceptance of torture, of loss of habeas corpus, of extreme rendition, of secrecy in government, an ironic trust in government - that the government will 'do the right thing' and will only behave badly if national security is at stake. I say acceptance with reluctance, noting that Bush probably won the 2004 election.

Anyway, in face of the litany of overt wrongs that are easily swallowed by a majority of Americans, is it any wonder that Congressional oversite has fallen by the way? I just wonder who on earth is giving the Democratic party legal advice, and strategic advice. Kyl/Lieberman stupidity that should never have gotten to the floor (bonus stupitidy: though non binding, it got the Iranians to declare the troops and the CIA to be terrorists, the only upside is that now we can not go to war with Iran easily because our troops will have no POW coverage), the vapidity of the stance on FISA (and the stupidity of voting in August because Chertoff's gut was acting up) proving themselves to be influencable cowards who can be suckered into voting rashly for war, for the military commissions and for loss of 1st and 4th amendment rights.

Oversite. Humph. We need babysitters.

Impeachment is available for high crimes and misdemeanors, and debate over the meaning of this phrase has existed since the framing of the Constitution.

The question of impeachment turns on the meaning of the phrase in the Constitution at Art. II Sec. 4, "Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors". Some believe the origin of the phrase "high crimes and misdemeanors" (and its meaning to the Framers) is found in the word "high". It does not mean "more serious". It refers to those punishable offenses that only apply to high persons, that is, to public officials, those who, because of their official status, are under special obligations that ordinary persons are not under, and which could not be meaningfully applied or justly punished if committed by ordinary persons.

Offenses of this kind survive today in the Uniform Code of Military Justice. It recognizes as punishable offenses such things as refusal to obey orders, abuse of authority, dereliction of duty, moral turpitude, and conduct unbecoming. These would not be offenses if committed by a civilian with no official position, but they are offenses which bear on the subject's fitness for the duties he holds, which he is bound by oath or affirmation to perform.

[John Roland at http://www.constitution.org/cmt/high_crimes.htm]

Bribery and treason are among the least ambiguous reasons meriting impeachment, but the ocean of wrongdoing encompassed by the Constitution's stipulation of “high crimes and misdemeanors” is vast. Abuse of power and serious misconduct in office fit this category, but one act that is definitely not grounds for impeachment is partisan discord. Several impeachment cases have confused political animosity with genuine crimes. Since Congress, the vortex of partisanship, is responsible for indicting, trying, and convicting public officials, it is necessary for the legislative branch to temporarily cast aside its factional nature and adopt a judicial role. And therein lies the problem.

Ultimately, Congress decides what constitutes "high crimes and misdemeanors". In 1970, Rep. Gerald Ford, R-Michigan, succinctly summarized this point when he stated: "An impeachable offense is whatever a majority of the House of Representatives considers it to be at a given moment in history."

The Constitution's terse handling of impeachment left open a number of issues that continue to be the subject of debate. Perhaps most important of these is what behavior qualifies as a “high crime and misdemeanor.” While some commentators have argued that impeachable matters are confined to criminal offenses, and Congressman Gerald Ford famously asserted that an impeachable offense was whatever Congress said it was, the balance of opinion and practice holds that impeachable conduct entails some serious abuse of office or breach of public trust.

When America's founders wrote the U.S. Constitution in 1787, they did not envision political parties playing a role in the government. Rather, they expected constitutional provisions such as separation of powers, checks and balances, federalism and indirect election of the president by an electoral college would deter the formation of parties.

The advent of the political party system came in the post-George Washington days (after 1787). The two main rivals were the Democratic-Republicans headed by pro-states’ rights Madison and Jefferson, while the pro-federal government was headed by Hamilton and Adams. There main conflict came over the ordeals on how to run the government (strict vs. loose construction), which could be expected in the newly developed Republic.

It is known that Washington refused to take sides, and while on his deathbed warned against the creation of political parties. His main worries, like lots of others, was the threat of civil war (can easily be seen later), and could lead to another “tyrannical” government. However after Washington’s death, it can easily be seen that no one took his advice.

“Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party generally . . . It serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms; kindles the animosity of one part against another; foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which find a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passion.”
George Washington, Farewell Address in The American Reader, ed. Diane Ravitch (New York: Harper Collins, 1990), 38-39.

Despite these provisions, the United States in 1800 became the first nation to develop political parties organized on a national level and to transfer executive power from one party to another via an election. By the 1830s, political parties were an established part of the U.S. political environment.

The existence of political parties can be argued to undermine certain of the the checks and balances intended by the framers. The breakdown of the system we are witnessing suggests that the issue should be revisited.

"Oversite. Humph. We need babysitters."

Rock, Paper, Scissors: Bush, Congress, Scotus.

Rock uses Scissors to take power. Paper wets pants, needs a blo-dry.

New paper of higher fiber content absorbs puddling but doesn't eliminate incontinence. Still wet and in fear of Scissors, Paper struggles to drape Rock in full coverage. Rock, sloppy in diaper-ware, sputters and struggles to recapture hegemony. Scissors, dulled by misuse capitulates to indecision. Thus Rock can only feint retaliation and is overcome by the dirty Paper which really stinks and nobody wants to touch.

What comes around, goes around and now the load in the diaper is everybody's problem. The moral -- Don't let children play Rock, Paper Scissors in the first place. Or at least know how to change a diaper.

The economic times were also different than today. The war and the draft were on. Going to college/getting into college was not the same then either. Parents were not so stressed over multiple jobs and driving the family to the dozens of extra-curricular activities like today. People were not obsessed with getting their kids into the right pre-school, there was less class division than now.

The war was escalating during those years as well. Nixon was re-elected. There was the Saturday Night Massacre followed by the assassination of Allende.

I do not think the Congress was as politicized or polarized as today. There was a clear distinction between the parties, and it did not cost as much to run for election. The role of money was less.

The news was not "entertainment." The news organizations were not conglomerates. The press was more independent. There were journalistic standards. In fact, there were more standards in general.

College students were rebelling. ROTC facilities and war-related industries on campus were under attack, being burned. There was a counter culture.

It is so different today. If Pelosi is really more compelled to have Democrats elected in 2008 than in making sure the democracy is well maintained, then she is a traitor.

Congress has failed to use the oversight process to create an overwhelming narrative on the Bush crimes.

Certainly the public gets the point generally--Bush is in Nixon territory on approval ratings.

Hold the right kind of hearings, and the public will have no problem concluding high crimes and misdemeanors are involved.

Really! The readers of TNH should respect their "Dear Leaders" more.

Something that I have often pondered in all this mess is how many lessons the Republicans took from the playbooks of such notables as Machiavelli and Hitler to accomplish the state that we are in today.

There is a major factor at play in terms of the everyday citizen being able to understand what has transpired. Does anyone remember an old Johnny Cash song from the 70s entitled "What is Truth?" I suspect that there was a specific effort on the part of the Republican takeover architects to blur the lines of what constitutes the "truth." Institutions that we believed in and trusted told us what the truth was -- and screamed loudly when anyone else tried to correct the record. Where I am going is that most people simply do not know what to believe, and it causes a headache to attempt to figure it out. They know that something is wrong, but they do not know how to even begin figuring it out.

There is no doubt, in my opinion, that the traditional media have been complicit in the bullsh*t that has been foisted on us all. There are too many efforts to grab the electrifying soundbite or take the information provided without questioning what it conveys. There are deadlines, editors, and shareholders to satisfy.

On another hand, though, I just have to think that a lot of the media complicity has been because of its own inability to comprehend "the truth." The stories are so complex that those who attempt to report them have no idea of how to ask the "right" questions. Anything that requires more than a few minutes' effort gets relegated to another time and effort. There is also the "in your face" journalism that one certain network introduced that has done more to destroy integrity than anything else.

As Albert Fall mentioned a little while ago, "Hold the right kind of hearings, and the public will have no problem concluding high crimes and misdemeanors are involved." Then they will all begin to redevelop their belief systems -- and reject those who have attempted to subvert our system for their gain.

Marcy wrote:
#2. ...Republicans neutralized the possibility of impeachment with the Clinton impeachment...

This is exactly the problem. The Republicans didn't know it, but by dragging the noble impeachment process through the mud, the Republicans have, in essence, given impeachment a bad name and immunized Bush and Cheney from repercussions.

Nancy Pelosi has not helped the status of impeachment as a noble constitutional tool by her cavalier dismissal of it.

So part of what is needed is a PR campaign to restore the "good name" of impeachment. This is exceedingly important for the future of our country, IMHO, because impeachment may be the only thing standing between us and a fascist dictatorship. How to do this? What I think might do it is a popular movie about impeachment in which the Constitutional process of impeachment is, itself, the hero. Along with a supporting cast of Sam Ervin-type characters and the Deep Throat shady characters! It should not be that difficult to do. Existing movies about Watergate such as "All the President's Men," don't place impeachment or the Constitution in a central role. I was in grad school at the time of Watergate, and the hearings, with the final result of Nixon's resignation, were really quite inspiring. I remember the strong impression at the time that Connstitutionalism was our national religion. Now, not so much.

Bob in HI

I would not let the press or the courts off the hook, but I don't think that the descent of the media into Paris/Lohan/Brit/Brangelina mode is important (That's just wingnut culture wars boilerplate. Bah). I think economics are a big part of the picture.

I think there is a huge disconnect between what we do as a nation, and the consequences of our actions, and so people don't see any consequences of our corrupt government and media, and just figure it can't be that bad, or it will work itself out. We've had massive deficits, financed by Asia's surpluses, and our Social Security tax surpluses, and we have miraculously avoided (postponed) inflation and recessions that normally would have made people take politics more seriously. We've seen the middle and lower classes losing ground. But what is the uninsured number at now? 50 million vs 40 some million 10 years ago? It's been the frog in the slowly heating pot of water, and some pain at the periphery, but nothing dramatic. And the media is relentless in promoting the good economic news and ignoring as much as possible the bad. People have a vague sense that things are going wrong, but everyone seems to want to ignore it and hope for the best, or at least hope the wheels don't fall off all of a sudden. I think people are afraid of the reforms we need, as though that will precipitate disaster, and as a result we probably won't get reforms until the Republicans and their Democratic enablers have run the whole country into the ground.

An unarticulated subtext running through EW's post as well as most of the comments is the fact of the radical metamorphosis that the Republican Party has gone through over the past 40+ years. What had been a basically patriotic party has become a subversive cancer in the American political system. Today's GOP, under the tutelage of Dick Cheney and his co-conspirators, is intent on emasculating the Congress, turning it into a rubber stamp for the President. They are out to replace the principle of the separation of equal powers and replace it with an all-powerful presidency that they call the Unitary Executive. This is nothing less than the highest treason. I'm old enough to remember the days of the infamous Attorney's List of the 1950s, and the GOP of 2007 is a vastly more lethal threat to America than any of the dozens or hundreds organizations on that McCarthyite list.

The response of the Democrats in Congress has been pathetic. I agree with janinSF that Pelosi is not qualified to be Speaker, let alone President. She violated her oath of office when in May, 2006, she "took impeachment off the table". She has no more right to pick and choose what elements of the Constitution she will "protect and defend" than does George Bush or Dick Cheney. She could have said something like "If I become Speaker, we will not consider impeachment frivolously, as was done in 1998. However, if the preliminary evidence shows that some of the administration's actions may rise to the level of 'high crimes and misdemeanors', we will not hesitate to thoroughly investigate them and take the appropriate action." The Dems in Congress need to eat their Wheaties; otherwise they're going to lose the Centrists and "Goldwater conservatives" who voted for their candidates in 2006.

I suspect that many life-long Republicans who were of age before Watergate haven't noticed the changing ground under their feet. I'm reminded of the old story that says a frog that is dropped into a pot of boiling water will immediately jump out, thus saving himself. Whereas if you put the frog into a kettle of cold water and gradually turn up the gas, he won't notice he's in trouble until it's too late. My father was a life-long Republican who died at 82 in 1973, just a few months before the Watergate sleaze began to ooze out into public awareness. I've often wondered if he would recognize his beloved Republican Party if he woke up after nearly 35 years. I doubt it.

There has been some great reporting, much of it in The New Yorker.

Also Jane Mayer, in addition to Hersh and Hertzberg.

Did Bernstein actually excuse the press, or does he just not find their (non)actions this time critical compared to 1970s? That's one of the bigger reasons I would need to read his account first, to get a view of the extent to which (he thinks) journalism actually led the way among all those institutions ew named.

My memory could probably use some refreshing, but I know my overall sense of the press at the time (I was in college) was not a lot different than it is now, though they certainly have become more baroque and more obviously cosseted by those who find them useful. The Pentagon Papers publication and Woodward-Bernstein reporting were certainly bright lights, and there were also some outstanding reporters working in and around Vietnam. Much of the sustained effort in covering the civil rights movement and the underlying social conditions came from the black press, which operated on a comparative shoestring.

But then as now, a lot of the good reporting that did get done was so much crying in the wilderness. It was only because Congress moved with relative alacrity as the Watergate stories got rather loud that that piece of reporting didn't also fade away. I think Bernstein and others at the Post knew then and know now that there were not phalanxes of reporters and editors from some deep, mythical press corps waiting to back up their efforts on that story.

At the same time, the volume of revelations in the press that should have led by now to investigations at least of the gravity of the Ervin committee hearings (and I've been on the impeachment wagon for several years) is probably greater, by some reasonable measure, than in 1973 or 4. So although I'm with anybody who says that the press have been remiss in our current predicament in investigating, reporting, elucidating, etc., I don't think it's mainly their shortcomings that have us wondering with gobsmacked awe just what it would take to get our sundry delegatees to act with a sense of urgency. These things are so hard to guage from in their midst.

As for the "impeachment has been cheapened" thing, in the story of the boy who cried wolf it is not the neighbors of the boy who were ignored when at last the wolf really came, but the boy himself. Seems to me that anyone trying to claim simple retaliation could at least be slowed down somewhat by pointing to the actual charges and evidence.

May 31, 2005.

But it makes me sick to read it now.

I heard two ConLaw professors in Oregon proclaim today that impeachment is overwhelmingly unlikely if not outright impossible. I asked whether the courts had any role in determining whether the conduct of the Executive branch was illegal, and the reply was: sure, but the SCOTUS will use every tool in its arsenal to avoid direct confrontation, and if the issue is forced, they will issue a ruling only when it is far too late to have any effect on current events, as they did in Korematsu.

And I agree. It's a mistake to rely on the courts to save us. The Congress has demonstrated its own unwillingness to effect change. I can't help thinking of the famous Jefferson quote about the Tree of Liberty and wondering whether the "time to time" he referred to is in fact right now.

I very much enjoy reading TNH, and wish I could participate more. I can make a few points about oversight, the press, and in general the failure to hold the Bush administration accountable:

Since the buildup to the Iraq invasion, it has been clear that the Democratic party does not seriously disagree with Bush's politics; it just disagrees with his methods and style. There is general agreement between both parties and their representatives that the US should maintain and increase its hegemony in the Middle East in order, among other things, to control the flow of oil to Europe and Japan and the supply to the US itself. The objection to Bush's invasion of Iraq has been that it was a)badly organized and b)not the best way to serve the goal of regional hegemony. Therefore, 'respectable' criticism of Bush--whether by the press or by congress, has been hobbled. Since the Iraq war is unpopular, Democratic politicians want to appear to oppose it without encouraging opposition to US hegemony. Hence the loud complaints about the conduct of the war or even that it was a 'mistake,' but never that it is wrong. Similarly, the press is willing to expose mistakes and incompetence by the Bush administration but not willing to expose the basic immorality of the invasion. Therefore Congress and the press exert only very limited oversight of the administration. Noone in a respectable position wants to encourage an objective assessment of the US role in the Middle East, so there is only smoke-and-mirrors oversight. This general policy is failing, however, as the disasters in Iraq become worse and more frequent and the official discussions become ever more superficial and diversionary, such as the Move-on.org and Rush Limbaugh 'issues' now.

In sum, the problem isn't that the press has degenerated, although it has; the problem is that the range of sanctioned discourse has narrowed, and congressional or media oversight has therefore become deliberately more superficial and irrelevant.

Keep up the good work, Peter Miller.

Really! The leaders of TNH should respect their constituents more. (Jeebus, Jodi, you really are tiresome.)


Bernstein is right that there is no oversight, but he has absolved the Fourth Estate from its role in citizen oversight of elected officials with his over-subtle damning. I'm sure part of the reason for letting them off is his own role in media and their general reluctance to critique themselves. But part of the reason is his aging worldview; does he, as well as most of the rest of traditional media, really understand that they as journalists have been put on a leash and neutered by corporate ownership, that we can see far more clearly than their weak, highly intermittent and filtered observations permit us?

It is the consolidation of media and the increasing cheapening of its product as nothing more than bread-and-circuses infotainment that has brought us here. A critical mass of the public were sold a bill of goods based on 10-second sound bites between missing white girl stories -- and until recently, they had nothing against which to validate the bill.

A consolidated media owned by members of one party, reaching across newspapers, magazines, radio and television, propelling one side and one side alone, has brought us to this juncture. The smears were easy when all outlets carried the same talking points. The votes were easy, when the media made it a foregone conclusion as to who would win and why. Oversight? Not necessary...look, another missing white girl!!

He is right, however, about a 35-year-long ideological war. The research shows a highly coordinated effort, including co-located entities in virtual space, providing infrastructure for attacks in sync upon an unsuspecting public and their government from top to bottom (and likely including the minders that sites like TNH have picked up). We were the proverbial boiling frog, unaware that we were being boiled to death until too late.

I can't help but wonder why Bernstein bothers now, over the corpse of our democracy. Is he merely eulogizing? To which I can only say thanks a fricking lot for too little, too late.

and for ew:

* Bernstein blames Congress, implicitly excusing the press and the courts--or at least not commenting on their failure. Do you agree with his assessment, or do you think he's just being polite?

I do not agree. As Atrios and Digby have tirelessly documented, the current state of affairs chas just as much to do with failures of the Fourth Estate as it does with the complicity of Congress. The courts have no armies and no independant subpoena power, so to some extent, the SCOTUS is dependant on a partnership with one of the other branches in order to accomplish any meaningful change. But as neokneme pointed out, Sandra Day O'Connor threw away our democracy like a used tampon in December of 2000. All of the pain, death, and ruin since her ill-considered decision must weigh heavily as blood on her hands. I hope she's happy with the path she chose, essentially on a whim, for all 8 billion of the rest of us. OK, that's a lie: I actually hope her dreams are haunted by nightmares that torture her for her wanton failure on the most important decision of her entire life.

* Somewhere during the early days of TNH, (Kagro? help?) Kagro did a great post suggesting that the Republicans neutralized the possibility of impeachment with the Clinton impeachment. Is that it? Or are there other reasons behind the changed ways the public has responded to Bush's shredding of the Constitution?

No, I think that's it. Before 98/99, the public associated "impeachment" with a last-resort effort of Congress to correct a great wrong on the part of the President. Now, "impeachment" is about the blue dress and blowjobs and the meaning of "is" and Newt Gingrich's own adulterous hypocrisy. Newt unwittingly beat that sword into a plowshare, and it will cut no more. Whether or not Newt had any idea of the damage he did to our system of government, or whether he would have pushed the attack had he known then what he knows now, are questions left for another post.

* Would Republican oversight have been enough? That is, was there ever a time when Bernstein's answer--congressional oversight--was a real possibility, or had Republicans simply placed their party ahead of the Constitution irrevocably?

Perhaps before the Clinton impeachment, the Republicans still had a shred of integrity. But that last hint of decency was severed from the GOP in the 2000 election and they have never looked back.

It's time for the Republican party to die a nasty and public death so that we can give them and their abhorrent policies a decent burial and move on as a nation.

In that same issue of The Hill linked to above, is an article about Novak, at that same journalism convention as Woodstein and boss Bradley, in which he(Novak) is quoted as saying:

"Columnist Robert Novak said Saturday Ambassador Joe Wilson did not forcefully object to the naming of his CIA operative wife, Valerie Plame Wilson, when Novak spoke to him prior to the publication of a column..."

It seems that giving Armitage a get-out-of-jail-free card was the point at which this Administration would never be held accountable for anything. It all seems to be a joke, and Novak is still laughing about it. Yes, a farce is right.

Appropos of this topic, here is tomorrow's New York Times headline: "Democrats Seem Ready to Extend Wiretap Powers." Because, of course, they're still afraid of being called soft on terrorism.

Administration officials say they are confident they will win approval of the broadened authority that they secured temporarily in August as Congress rushed toward recess. Some Democratic officials concede that they may not come up with enough votes to stop approval.

"[T]hey may not come up with enough votes to stop approval." Isn't it up to the Democrats to keep a bill they don't like in committee? Apparently not. A link to the story is below.


And while we're talking about oversight, what ever happened to those subpoenas that Condi Rice and Harriet Miers, et al, brushed off? What happened to all those e-mails and other WH documents that have never been produced? Has anyone heard anything about "contempt" lately? What the hell are these guys doing, besides condemning newspaper ads and radio blowhards?

So yes, Congress bears a lot of the blame, and not just the Republicans that controlled Congress before last year. The Democrats made things easy for them when they were in the minority, and now even when they are in the majority, they still act like they are in the minority.

The press likewise bears a lot of the blame. The press enabled Bush and his Republican lackeys, and helped reinforce the apparently genetically embedded timidity of the Democrats. The press has them convinced that the public doesn't want them to do the very things they were elected to do -- end the war, impose oversight and controls on a runaway executive branch.

As for the courts -- ironically, despite all the damage the Bush Administration has done to the judicial branch, there isn't much the courts can do on their own. Time-honored standards concerning the non-justiciability of "political questions" discourages the federal courts from hearing suits alleging that one branch of government has either exceeded or failed to exercise its constitutional powers. It's not an insuperable barrier, but even a court inclined to consider and decide issues that might be considered "political questions" cannot do so on their own -- someone has to bring a case to them. One such suit could be a suit brought by Congress to enforce the subpoenas with which the Executive Branch has contemptuously refused to comply. But it has to be brought. The Democrats can't just keep kicking the can down the road.

Disgusted in NYC,

the first president to play the religion card in modern times? He has effectively convinced the most stupid among us that god has told him to war against all the brown people. He and his followers have sucked money from the poorest among us to prove they are anointed. It is the new crusade, and religion and war will be with us forever as a result. We have never seen such stupidity in our people. Perhaps it is that millions are using antidepressants and don't give a crap about anything? Some people think this moron is smart. That should sum it up?

To inform everybody else, according to the NYT story the House bill will NOT have retroactive immunity for the telcos. The Senate bill may have it. The House bill will have blanket warrants.

"Republicans simply placed their party ahead of the Constitution irrevocably"

I hate to say it, but I think this really is the right answer. They learned from Nixon's mistakes, were fueled by Reagan's successes, snuck the neocons in under cover of night, and were piloted by Rove's artistry. I don't think we ever had a much of a chance. As much as I'd like to assess blame and make it all preventable, I actually think we were snookered before we even knew what the name of the game was...

Great comments, as usual!

It wasn't simply that a botched, third-rate burglary of the headquarters of Nixon's Political Enemies so incensed the slumbering Country that we were ready to carry torches to the White House. The break-in was more like the straw that broke the camel's back, after years - hell, a whole political career - of Nixon lying to the Citizens, followed by getting caught and then giving really pitiful 'But, it wasn't me' mea culpas.

As others have mentioned, the Social Pressures in the early '70s were ginormous compared to today - the Draft, Race riots, Women getting uppity, Vets marching in Anti-War protest marches, etc. The visuals were extreme compared to today's 'sanitized' War.

Nixon campaigned in '68 with a 'secret plan' to Win the War quickly. Of the 58,000 US killed in Vietnam, 30,000 of them - more than half - died after Nixon's election. And, it turned out that Nixon's 'secret plan' consisted of mainly bombing Laos and Cambodia, without telling US or the Congress about it.

By all rights, Nixon should have lost the '72 Campaign, no matter who he ran against - the 7,000 pages of the Pentagon Papers were leaked in early '71 by Daniel Ellsberg to the New York Times and they made it crystal clear that a) Nixon had been lying all along about the extent of Military operations, and b) the US had no measurable, strategic plan for winning the War.

The effect of the Pentagon Papers on Nixon was profound. By the '72 campaign, he was no longer making any claims for Victory - instead, he campaigned on 'Peace with Honor' - while bombing the hell out of Hanoi, so the North Vietnamese would be more willing to negotiate.

The '72 Campaign was a nasty campaign. Wallace got shot, Eagleberger got smeared as 'mentally unstable,' Muskie cried on camera, and McGovern never seemed to come across like he had 'the right stuff.' So, Nixon got re-elected, but the Country was an unhappy powder keg, just waiting for something to set it off.

Then came the news of one of the Dirty Tricks used by Nixon's campaign staff to get him re-elected - a break-in at the Watergate Hotel. After a very slow start to the investigation, eventually Congress tracked down 'What the President knew, and when he knew it' to an 18-minute gap in a taped conversation between Nixon and his chief of staff, Haldeman.

After a Career of Lying all the way to the top, it all came down to Nixon having to decide whether to say 'Trust Me' on the 18-minute gap (created by his own secretary) or Resigning. To help give him clarity, a delegation of Republicans made the long, slow walk to the White House to tell Nixon they could no longer stand with him.

So, Nixon the Imperial President went on the TeeVee and announced, "I am not a Crook," and Resigned to go into shameful reclusion.

"When you strike at a king you must kill him."

The problem with congressional oversight with the Dems in charge is that the chairs have done just enough to show how much the White House has abused power, and then withheld the final blow, meaning that such abuses of power are still happening.

Somewhere during the early days of TNH, (Kagro? help?) Kagro did a great post suggesting that the Republicans neutralized the possibility of impeachment with the Clinton impeachment.

Absolutely. I'd say 'inoculated'. Impeachment of a president? Once in a century thing. Do it once and you get 90 years' grace. That's the precedent. Furthermore, not impeaching Bush is a booster shot: any future president will only need to be slightly less horrific than Bush and, by pointing to Bush, will have a fine precedent to avoid impeachment. Until a decent Dem president comes along, and will be impeached for farting in public.

Would Republican oversight have been enough?

Fuck, no. It wasn't just K Street, but, as Josh Marshall has said, the parliamentarian turn of the GOP. It worked like a parliamentary minority... in the majority. It buried oversight and still tries to bury it now.

They said that Pelosi's point of view is that they need to look forward to the future and not be mired in the past with regards to the Bush administration.

Well, fuck that shit. The consequences of not impeaching Bush will live long in the future, like a cancer in the body politic.

Oh, and of course the press takes its share of the blame. From the Church of High Broderism through to the so-easily-exploited false equivalence template of 'straight' reporting to the laziness of political correspondents in transcribing talking points rather than doing journalism, through to the marginalisation of actual reporting (Pincus on A18) through to the mau-mauing of reporters for challenging the Party line and the weak-kneedness of editors, through Judith Fucking Miller, Queen of All Iraq with her MET Alpha press credentials... and so on.

Nixon is spinning in his grave.

EW, you asked three questions, so here are three straight forward answers - for what it's worth.

Bernstein being polite? Hell? who knows? But there is no excusing the press. Congress gets top billing here - they have a consitutionally duty that they are not fulfulling, where the press has a moral duty they are not fulfilling. One feeds the other. A big reason congress is not doing its job is fear of a lazy if not hostile press. The republican machine has a lot of control over message, the effect is magnified with the bully pulpit effect of the executive office. The current soundbite reporting mentality is blistering when the president must be pursued over issues involving more than one layer of understanding.

I remember Kago's post quite well, God have I been lurking here that long? Listen, I don't think the rethuglicans impeached Clinton with the intent of innoculating them agains impeachment. They impeached him because they are mean, petty, selfish, small, bullies who COULD NOT STAND not having the presidency. Also, Bill was just way too well loved and would have easily walked Gore right into office if they couldn't bloody him up badly.

The inoculation was a byproduct. Dems are (rightly) scared to death of simple sound bites, and they know damn good and well the press will jump right on the "petty revenge" analysis that the republican machine will spin.

Would Republican Oversight have ever been enough? --- Let's not forget that Watergate involved a heavily democratic congress and a republican president. A party is never going to turn on it's own executive easily. Watergate would certainly have been less likely to result in impeachment had there been a democratic president or republican controlled congress. It's hard to say how it would have gone. Yet these ARE different times, with a less independent press, no draft, more distracted and less informed public. AND the republican machine has planned for this quite coupe very carefully. Nixon was a rogue republican, this is more of a republican sydicate. AND I will add operating with the help of a number of Vichy Democrats.

This fight is going to be a long slog. We aren't going to get any silver bullet, that much is now clear. If Dems win big in the next election, there will be a lot of work to do prying our own party away from the clutches of evil. We must reform the media structure. We must get corporate money out of politics. We must roll a few incumbant heads to reenforce the idea that the buck stops with the electorate. Nothing is going to change until congressmen fear the "informed public" more than they fear the rich powerbrokers.

We suffer from the basic problem that principle and bedrock values do not matter anymore.

The Constitution is an anachronism in todays climate. The maxim today is "the ends justify the means".

Take a look at all aspects of our civil life. Corruption and criminality rather than being vilified is celebrated - hypocrisy is accepted - the inaneness of he said-she said is the metaphor of information dissemination - there is no longer fact checking in the media. Its the us vs them mentality. If there was a poll done - how many would be happy to be a Jack Abramoff - if he wasn't nailed?

IMO, what we have is societal decay that inevitably leads to fascism and dictatorship as authoritarian personalities suggest clear cut enemies and simple solutions to problems. There's a good reason why the Dems want an expanded surveillance regime with the "updated" FISA law. The reason why Watergate took place was that there still remained people of principle and the country as a whole believed in values of right and wrong. Now its all about getting ahead and hiding behind the gates - screw the rest - notions of community & country just don't exist except as part of rhetoric in the hands of manipulators.

Do I have to answer these questions?
Paul Rosenberg has a series going on Open Left about cognitive complexity. He is strongly emphasizing the difference of being able to reflect about one's social/institutional role vs. simply acting out the role and being able to reflect about views and perceptions. Both Congress and the press according to this analysis are not using enough reflection about their roles. Although Congress and the press have a wealth of information available to them, they are conditioned by their roles in the game of politics not to consider the information important and to continue posturing. The press is to blame for not being interested in the information which is being kept from Congress.
Impeachment hasn't really been put to the American public. Impeachment is so drastic that the American public did not get on the bandwagon right away even with Nixon. The American public may also think that replacing Bush with Cheney is a bad deal. I would agree that lack of knowledge of the Constitution is a great handicap in the public making up its mind about what is an impeachable offense.
I'm not sure the Republican base or the Republican Wurlitzer is interested in oversight. So Republicans in Congress had no motivation to do it. To have Republican oversight you would need a different bunch of Republicans and a different leadership. The most egregious things which Bush has done have been in the nature of bamboozling Congress. In that case oversight conflicts with the desire to protect a president of one's own party. You are no longer talking about oversight as a process but about personal integrity.

Eagleton, not Eagleberger.

bq: There was the Saturday Night Massacre followed by the assassination of Allende.

It was the other way around: the coup in Chile happened on September 11, 1973; the sequential firing of Attorneys General was in October.

The reason I know that for sure is that I remember my reaction when a college friend told me the news about the firings: "This isn't Chile!" I knew Nixon had supported the coup, and it seemed all of a piece -- now he was acting as a dictator here.

Bernstien's thinks the press has done enough successful investigation to produce the work that Congress could dig into. He is only saying the press has produced sufficiently, why hasn't congress? Bernstien believes BushCo operates outside the law with impunity. He's right. I have my problems with the press and the court but I think Bernstein is right about Congress.

Yes, the Republicans impeaching Clinton makes impeachment proceedings against Bush look like politics right from the get go. And then, there's the war. Imagine impeaching a sitting president during the GWOT for all the things he does to keep us safe, like torture and suspending habeaus corpus? But those two factors together are not the only impediments. Congerss is prioritizing politics and electoral gains in '08 above their duty to defend the Constitution.

The Republican led Congress could not have done effective oversight - it was wartime, they were on the same team, and BushCo plays politics pulls the strings with the Republican Congressmen just like everyone else.

Thanks, 4jkb4ia, I should have done more research. In fact, I wondered if it really came down to a 'trust me' with Nixon, or was it clearer than that, because the 18 minute gap has yet to be recovered.

Here's the wiki -


In late July 1974, the White House released the subpoenaed tapes. One of those tapes was the so-called "smoking gun" tape, from June 23, 1972, six days after the Watergate break-in. In that tape, Nixon agrees that administration officials should approach the Director of the CIA and ask him to request that the Director of the FBI halt the Bureau's investigation into the Watergate break-in on the grounds that the Watergate break-in was a National Security matter. In so agreeing, Nixon had entered into a criminal conspiracy whose goal was the Obstruction of justice — a felony, and an impeachable offense.

Once the "smoking gun" tape was made public on August 5, Nixon's political support evaporated. Every single Republican on the House Impeachment Committee who had voted against impeachment in committee announced that he would now vote for impeachment once the matter reached the House floor. In the Senate, it was said that Nixon had at most a half dozen votes.

Facing impeachment in the House of Representatives and a probable conviction in the Senate, Nixon announced his resignation on Thursday evening, August 8, to take effect at 12 Noon the next day.

Thanks for reminding me of the existence of wikipedia. And what do you suppose the Featured Article for today is, but the Night of the Long Knives?!

While rummaging around for Watergate stuff, look what I found, from 1984:

Looking through the back issues of The New York Times, I recollected in a flood of ten-year-old memories what it was that had filled me with such foreboding. It was the reluctance of Congress to act. I felt anew my fury when members of Congress pretended that nobody really cared about Watergate except the “media” and the “Nixon-haters.” The real folks “back home,” they said, cared only about inflation and the gasoline shortage. I remembered the exasperating actions of leading Democrats, such as a certain Senate leader who went around telling the country that President Nixon could not be impeached because in America a person was presumed innocent until proven guilty. Surely the senator knew that impeachment was not a verdict of guilt but a formal accusation made in the House leading to trial in the Senate. Why was he muddying the waters, I wondered, if not to protect the President?

I want to endorse all of what tekel said above:

it has been clear that the Democratic party does not seriously disagree with Bush's politics; it just disagrees with his methods and style

If Congressional Democrats felt any conviction about ending this war we would have seen it by now. I don't think it's just about fear of being labeled weak on terrorism and other bullshit; I think they also basically believe that the U.S. was justified in attacking Iraq. And they won't seriously try to stop Bush from bombing Iran either. The moral vacuum that we live in would be breathtaking if it had any air in it.

So, effectively we have a one-party state. The only thing driving Democrats is its desire to regain power and they have apparently concluded that the best way to do this is to allow the public to continue to be disgruntled with the Republicans but otherwise not rock the boat.

I fully expect that a Democratic president will make many of the same fear-and-security arguments that Bush has done and the much-vaunted checks-and-balances that the Founders were credited with for so long will be ancient history.

Regardless of all this, the Republicans in Congress will continue to do anything and everything they can to make the Democrats' life hell, and David Broder and his cohorts will continue to express regret that the Democrats are being so extreme.

PowerOfX -- There is another factor that has shaped the Democratic congressional delegation; it may not be as simple as a lack of conviction. It's part and parcel of the ideological war by the right on government, and highly visible in the appointees selected to office.

The right has badmouthed and denigrated politicians and public service for three decades; their denigration was more readily embedded into the public's mindset having been set in motion by the unethical Nixon administration. Surely they were correct; just look at Nixon. And Carter made it easier for the right to say that government was incompetent, even if he really wasn't the incompetent they made him out to be.

After a decade or two of non-stop negativism, who wants to run for office? Hell, who wants to be politically active?

Add a decade of prosperity in which politics are not as esteemed or as well-paid, and we end up with those who will be leaders by default, propelled by a party that has suffered for rejuvenation until recently, a party that could be easily co-opted because of its malaise.

It's going to take us another decade to unwind and remove the "leaders by default", along with their generational kin within the ranks of the party. But we are challenged with simultaneously unwinding a war on the middle east as well as unveiling the truth about the the Republican Party; what we see before is our inability to juggle these three issues at the same time, for lack of better leadership.

Wow. That's some article, prostratedragon. And here I thought the Schlesinger article, "What if we don't impeach him?" was haunting.

This sucks.

This is probably a really 'stupid' question, but here goes;
'Could the continuing actions of this House and Senate with their failure to protect the Constitution' be considered 'Acts of Treason'? and by failing to protect The Constitution, are they not then 'failing to protect We the People'?
They swore an oath and they have betrayed it.
The Country is being 'deliberately' destroyed from the in-side out, by the very people who swore to protect it.

So; 'Is that legal?'
And, if not legal, could 'We The People' file a criminial complaint against both the House and Senate and force an investigation into 'Suspected Criminal Actions against The People and The Constitution?
It really is time to get clever/creative, because the whole time everybody fiddles over the 'techicalities' regarding just how dirty these people are, 'they' are getting closer to 'Overthrowing the Constitution'
So, if it is not legal, then it is a crimiminal act.
Which then makes it a police matter, and 'politicians and enablers' are now 'suspects to a Crime'.
If their actions are 'not legal' it is no longer a 'political' matter and wouldn't it now become a matter for our 'Boys in Blue?

Jodi's heart not really in it lately -- must be busy with homecoming activities -- probably on the dance committee.

One thing that's changed is the position of the print media in terms of economic and political power. Yes, there are still strong investigative voices out there, and they're still finding a place to be published (though that's not always easy, and increasingly they're not in traditional newspapers).
But the economic position of the print media, particularly newspapers, is something folks need to pay more attention to. It's really a revolution of sorts -- more and more people are finding they can begin their day without a newspaper, and as a result ad revenues are plummeting (which is where the money to operate comes from), and the news hole continues to shrink, and management trims its sails in favor of safety (or buys into "news" that isn't news at all) -- and that's in a newspaper that's privately held. Where there are shareholders, it gets even more complicated.
So we have a media that's becoming weaker year by year -- and that's worrisome. I think there will always be investigative reporters kicking the tires -- but I'm not sure they'll be funded always by newspapers.
What may help is that people are generally pretty tired of the talking points and the bs, and the blogosphere is winning readership that most newspapers would envy. It may help some publications realize that safety is not the safest policy -- but that still doesn't solve the basic problem of funding. There are lots of people celebrating the end of Times Select, and I'm one of them, but the revenue has to come from somewhere.

I agree with Carl. All the information that's come out, scandal after scandal, but no oversight. But the problem is that there are no members of the president's party marching up to the white house and demanding change or they'll go against the president. That happened during Watergate. The Dems and "liberals" have been ignored from the beginning by the administration.


I liked that.

: )

Was the impeachment of Bill Clinton an action to inocculate bush* or was just a coincident?

Yes, all of the above.

The illegal actions of repig Presidents starts with Richard Nixon. Gerald Ford wasn't in office long enough to get caught or noticed.

If Jimmy Carter had been re-elected then he would have been the target for impeachment, or ended up like John, Martin and Bobby. But they got Ronny Raygun in instead. Wasn't Iran/Contra an impeachable event that was not persued because Ronny was sooo popular and senile too?

Wasn't poppy bush* implicated in Iran/Contra but pardoned everybody before it became an issue?

The impeachment of Bill Clinton may not have been specifically to innoculate bush*, it was to innoculate ANY repiglican president, bush* was just the happy beneficiary.

I can't speak for before Nixon but all the repiglicans since have been criminals and should have been impeached.

Jodi,,,,,respect comes from being respectable...DUH!

Nixon's lies killed no one, did not take us to war, were political not treasoness!

As suggested elsewhere recently, I think it is possible our dems are operating under the fear of the ghost of J. Edgar. They have been spied on and threatened.

It's all true, a perfect storm. The Nixon administration marked the beginning of a new national identity culturally, socially, economically and politically. His war against crime on the streets became the drug war. The space program and education were defunded. The U.S. changed from a manufacturing to a service economy. Since Nixon became president, the population has doubled, and I find people born since then don't know what the Constitution says and don't figure it or anything else matters, except "what's in it for me?" This sort of external poverty breeds an internal deficiency which ignores public policy issues.

I think that we have gone far down the line where Congress in no longer and effective stop on the Executive nor is the Judiciary because as Carter said, a long time ago, there is a general malaise in America. We are at war but there is no sign of it. The dollar is falling faster that the water over the Niagra Falls but the stock market if going up and up like Sputnik. Pelosi is a disaster more interested in acting as if she is doing something than doing it. She is afraid the President will call her weak on the war against terrorists so she asks weakly without the President even having to point to her. When Congress and the Judiciary fold the tent, there is only one game in town. No one cares as long as the checks come on time.


that is why you will never be on the "Dance Committee" or even on Decorations.

* Bernstein blames Congress, implicitly excusing the press and the courts--or at least not commenting on their failure. Do you agree with his assessment, or do you think he's just being polite?
* Somewhere during the early days of TNH, (Kagro? help? Update: Ah, here it is, thanks Kagro) Kagro did a great post suggesting that the Republicans neutralized the possibility of impeachment with the Clinton impeachment. Is that it? Or are there other reasons behind the changed ways the public has responded to Bush's shredding of the Constitution?
* Would Republican oversight have been enough? That is, was there ever a time when Bernstein's answer--congressional oversight--was a real possibility, or had Republicans simply placed their party ahead of the Constitution irrevocably?

I think none of the above, from my memories of the period. Back then, there was no 'contempt machine' - certainly not like now. And people of our persuasion were on the streets, on the t.v., on the ball. Now, there's an intimidation factor from the 'contemptuous ones' in and out of the government that makes a sustained push like the Watergate Investigation much harder to mount. Also, back then, we expected integrity [neither Reagan nor Clinton helped with that much]. Finally, and maybe most importantly, the Bush/Cheney methodology is not so openly criminal. They learned a lot from Nixon's errors - "no-memos" Cheney, no "tapes," no breakins, take-over the DOJ, etc. Now, it's just solid and sustained white collar sleaze. If there were a good solid breakin or some white house tapes [missing emails], I think the roof would come off quickly. Watergate wasn't assured until the criminal stuff came out and the tapes were released and insiders began to sing. Oh, for the good old days of hard evidence [and Dean and Butterfield]. I think Cheney began to plan for no Watergate before he even ran...

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