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Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Our Great Shame

I just read the following article on The Daily Beast, and completely agree.

THE GREAT SHAME
BUSH'S LEGACY IS OUR FAILURE
BY ALLAN UTHMAN

When the networks projected an Ohio win for Obama on November 4th, I
counted up the remaining states, and realized that Obama was going to win. Like
a lot of people that night, I wanted to celebrate. I gladly turned off the TV and
went out to get drunk.

As they were everywhere, people were out in the streets of Buffalo, NY, too that
night. Shouting, singing, crying, forming impromptu drum circles and dance
troupes. Strangers hugging each other, cars honking as they crawled by—this
was unprecedented behavior in the Queen City, where the people generally
exude a dull aura of eternal defeat. Maybe this was what it would look like if the
Bills actually won a Super Bowl.

Of course, people were celebrating Obama's victory, but I think the main source
of jubilation was that the end of the Bush administration, and Republican rule,
was finally in sight. There were many cries of "Obama!" that night, but there were
just as many people expressing a superlative relief, like a long over-strained
muscle finally relaxing, that our long national nightmare was finally over.

I, too, am glad—elated, really—that Bush's absurd, colossally tragic reign is
nearing an end. But that doesn't change the fact that we failed. We all failed.
Congress failed, the courts failed, and the American people failed. We have
suffered through two terms of plainly illegitimate, nakedly contemptuous tyranny
in a country that was designed to facilitate overthrowing tyrants, and we failed to
do so.

I have no doubt that Obama, as disappointing as he will no doubt turn out to be,
is a vast improvement over the past eight years, and may even be the best
president of my lifetime—a dubious achievement at best. But it's not enough to
look forward and move on. If anything is to be learned from the Bush disaster, it's
important to look back, and to understand how terrible our failure has been.
As citizens, our expectations have fallen far and fast. When Nixon ignored a
subpoena, the nation was outraged. Even Republican congressmen were vocally
outraged, and Nixon was forced to resign to avoid impeachment. When Nixon
tried to fire a special prosecutor, his Attorney General resigned. Then his Deputy
Attorney General resigned. When Reagan lied to the people about crimes far
worse than Nixon's, it was a scandal, but our expectations had already been
dramatically lowered. There were hearings, but no impeachment. A few years
later, a Republican congress abused the impeachment process as an instrument
of prudery, in an act of supreme political perversion.

And then the real rape of American government began, starting with Bush v.
Gore. Now, the president, and even his former employees, ignore subpoenas as
a matter of routine. They can exact political retribution on CIA agents (Scott
McClellan recently revealed that Bush told him he was responsible for the Valerie
Plame leak), and get nothing but a few critical editorials in return. They can fake
us into a costly, bloody war, and no one will do anything but bitch about it. They
torture people to generate false intel, and nothing comes of it. Nothing.

All this is to end on January 20th, presumably. But Bush's underhanded tactics
will not end on that day. Still, he is showing us what "sprinting to the finish"
means, as he furiously works to undermine the incoming Democrats in as many
ways as possible. For one, Bush is generating a last-minute smorgasbord of
polluter-friendly regulatory rollbacks, setting new lows in terms of water quality
and global warming emissions, setting new, lower standards for "acceptable"
levels of coal slurry in streams, of melamine in food products, and generally
manifesting their shamelessness and hostility toward American citizens. New
DoJ rules permit the FBI to engage in prolonged infiltration and surveillance of
subjects who are not suspected of wrongdoing, and increased latitude in
selecting these subjects based on their race and religion.

Over 90 such new "regulations" have occurred or are in the works, and while
executive orders are fairly easy for an incoming president to reverse, changing
new department-generated regulations entails a long and arduous process. This
extends Bush's disastrous impact well into the next term.

And so does this: Reports abound that scores of loyal Bush mid- and low-level
appointees in many departments are in the process of "burrowing," that is,
changing their job status from political appointments, which change with each
administration, to career civil service positions, which will make it hard for Obama
to fire them when he takes office. The object is clear: to surround Obama with
hostile operatives, hamstringing his agenda at every turn with leaks, foot-
dragging and other forms of sabotage. Smooth transition, indeed.

Because congress and the American people have been asleep at the switch, the
Obama administration will be spending much of the next four years struggling to
simply undo most of what Bush has left them. It will only be a few months before
our amnesiac press starts to blame Obama for the inevitable economic collapse,
environmental catastrophe, and foreign policy blowback Bush will leave him. The
next few years will reveal even darker secrets still unknown to us, a predictable
result of tolerating the shadowy machinations of the most secretive
administration ever.

All of this could have and should have been avoided, if the congress or the
American people had any sense of duty, or responsibility, or really any sense at
all. The fact that Bush, Cheney, and the rest will walk out of the White House and
back into lives of decadent opulence and ballooning bank accounts is a shame, a
damn shame of historic proportions. And the shame is ours. Bush is the worst
outlaw ever to occupy the White House, and it is not enough that he simply
leave. The message we have sent to power-mad, totalitarian presidents of the
future is clear: Do whatever you want; we will do nothing to stop you. The press
will do everything in its power to gloss over your worst excesses, and marginalize
your critics, and when the public finally catches on, the press will simply ignore
you in favor of optimistic coverage of your possible successors. At least that's
how it works for Republicans.

Bush lied about Iraq; it's nothing if not clear at this point. And what the hell did we
do about it? Bush failed miserably in New Orleans, dashing the image of
Republican competence. But what did we do about it? Even now, as Bush's
economic team fools us into pouring an insane, gargantuan amount of money
into the largest banks in the world, pulling a classic scare-and-switch tactic we
should all be familiar with by now, nobody even murmurs about holding him
accountable. As we all hold our breath and wait for Obama to take office, we
allow the most craven, criminal administration in American history to keep right
on pillaging our laws, our money, and our collective sense of decency right to the
end. We, as a nation, are a miserable failure.

It's just not enough that it will soon be over. It's not enough that we managed to
get through it. It's not enough that the Republicans are in disarray, apparently
headed toward a schism. These people should be in jail. They should serve as
an example to all who come after them, that there is only so much corruption,
malfeasance, and rank incompetence that this nation will put up with. Instead,
their scot-free exit signals the impotence of this country in the face of an all-out
hijacking of its government.

So sure, celebrate a victory for relative sanity in Obama's win. But at the same
time, we should be lamenting an all-out defeat for accountability. An eight-year
crime wave has swept through the most powerful democracy in the world, and
the only people being punished are you and me. And maybe we deserve it,
because the true failure is ours.

1 comment:

..Tiffany.. said...

Hear, hear! It's been a great shame indeed. I do not envy Obama and the mess he's inheriting, but I am SO ready for a change.