The last time "Shallow Throat" and I talked, at
a dimly-lit D.C. suburban tavern several months before the midterm election,
the highly-placed GOP mole within the Bush Administration was extremely
nervous about being discovered. This time, there was no face-to-face
meeting -- that's how frightened Shallow Throat was. On this night, we
communicated in low voices over public phones in a major city's train
station, 15 feet apart from each other.
I didn't even have a chance to ask a question before the
angry monologue hissed into my ear.
"In our meetings this year, I've passed on various
insights into how Bush & Co. work, and what to do to stop them. Your
Democrat friends took none of that advice and wound up with their heads in
their laps on November 5th. Instead of confronting Bush&Co. directly on
the issues they're most vulnerable on -- greed, corruption, the environment,
extremism, big-brother government, and so on -- your Democrats, not wanting
to be called 'unpatriotic' or 'soft on terrorism,' caved on every issue. And
you lost the election anyway, so what good did all that timidity do?"
"I know all that negative stuff already," I
said. "Don't you have any positive bone you can throw my
"It's a question of learning and not-learning. The
Democrats, at least in the House, seem to have learned something from the
election results, and now are more willing to change and stand up for their
party's traditional principles; the Senate is another matter, with too many
presidential ambitions getting in the way of true oppositional
"The saving grace is that Bush&Co. didn't learn a
damn thing and are behaving even more arrogantly, as if they'd been swept
into power with a huge mandate and can do whatever the hell they want. Not
even Mary Landrieu's victory over them in Louisiana is giving them pause.
They'll keep pushing into the vacuum of power -- in American politics, while
you Dems pick yourselves off the floor, and across the globe, while there's
no other Superpower to stop them -- until somebody stands up to them with
comparable power. They don't believe they can be stopped."
"But nobody does have that comparable power," I
said. "And you say that's one of their vulnerable points?"
"Bush&Co. have the reins of power, but they don't
have moral authority. People get out of their way because they're
frightened of them, not because they believe in the rightness of their
cause. Inside the U.S., people are scared and insecure, still reeling from
9/11, and the Bushies expertly have played Johnny-one-note on that theme. If
you and your friends are going to block them, you've got to assuage the
fears of the population, you've got to be the party of EFFECTIVE
anti-terrorism, without all the police-state tactics. There are bad guys out
there anxious to do us harm, and the Dems have to convince people that they
will deal strongly with the terrorists but without turning this country into
a militarist nightmare.
"You've also got to go after Bush&Co. where they
are most vulnerable. In addition to policy fights, where the Dems could gain
the moral high ground -- prescription-drug coverage, extremist judges being
nominated, Medicare, education, health-care reforms, Bush's giveaways to
environmental polluters, alternative fuels, etc., etc. -- there are so many
scandals dangling on the trees out there, just waiting to be harvested. Take
your pick Harken and Bush, Kenny Lay and Bush, Halliburton and Cheney,
Cheney and energy policy, Tom White & Enron, pre-9/11 knowledge and the
cover-up, Venezuela, the segregationist underlay of some Southern GOP
leaders, and on and on."
"But," I replied, "the Republicans control
Congress; there aren't going to be any meaningful investigations, subpoenas
and all the rest -- and Mr. Secrets, Kissinger, is in charge of the
so-called 'independent' 9/11 commission."
"The Dems in Congress have to be like bulldogs on
these matters and, if necessary, begin their own investigations in alliance
with respected, non-partisan outside groups. And the Dems have to lean on
the members of the 9/11 commission to not permit
Kisssinger to whitewash anything. And they have to try to get moderate GOP
senators -- McCain, Spector, Snowe, Collins, Chaffee -- to stand up and
demand the truth. Maybe your friends can even get them to defect when they
see how far beyond the moral pale Bush&Co. are willing to go -- the
recent revelations that Bush is willing to nuke countries pre-emptively
might wake them up. There's no shortage of horrifying or embarrassing issues
to work on."
"What about hanky-panky in the touch-screen computer
voting results from the November election?"
There was a long silence. Finally, Shallow Throat said
"I don't know anything directly about that. If it was done, it was done
from the highest Rove echelons in the White House and kept utterly
secret within that small group. The only thing I can point to is the
feeling of certainty in the White House in the final weeks that they had the
election securely in hand in the key states -- even though the polls
indicated otherwise -- and thus could feel safe sending Bush out on the
hustings in the key states to make him look good.
"True, the companies that control the software for
those machines are Republican supporters, but don't pin your hopes on
finding anything on that issue -- or on whether the White House had
something to do with the last-minute cancellation of all exit-polling.
Instead, concentrate on how and why your Democrat friends lost the election,
and figure out ways to correct that situation in terms of policies.
"But make sure future elections have a fail-safe
paper trail, so that votes can be double-checked, and have your own exit-pollers
out there. I would have thought you guys would have learned not to take
election vote-counting for granted after what happened to you in 2000; the
Bush forces had two years to figure out how to work the system more subtly.
Get on it!"
"The last time we talked, a few months before the
November election," I said, "you seemed so discouraged, almost
willing to resign in disgust at what your fellow Republicans were doing. I'm
guessing things haven't changed."
"I've changed," said Shallow Throat. "The
blood-thirst in the White House for war and domination around the globe is
almost palpable, and it sickens me. The move domestically toward more
and more police-state powers is rushing forward
daily, and it frightens me. I've hung in there as long as I can, because I
was able to help alter or slow down some of the more egregious policies, but
those days are coming to an end. Those few of us with moral qualms about
what's being done are more and more discouraged. I'll be leaving shortly.
What's left of my soul requires it. If I stay much longer, I'll be sucked
into the vortex of greed and power-hunger that is the central core of the
Bush Administration -- that same core that will be their ultimate
"What will you do?" I asked.
"I'll follow the example of other women and men of
courage who have left rotten enterprises in the government and corporations
and unions. I love my country and the institutions set up by our founding
fathers, and I will speak up and work toward the day when those extremists
who have hijacked my party will be revealed for what they are and be removed
from the offices they hold and are besmirching.
"The cracks already are starting to grow. True
conservatives, appalled at what Bush and Ashcroft are doing to the
Constitutional guarantees of due process, and at the establishment of huge,
Big Brother-type information-gathering agencies, are starting to rebel, from
both inside and outside the Administration. I may try to be a bridge between
the civil libertarians and my fellow conservative Republicans -- who are
worried that our party has gone way too far to the extreme right -- to bring
our country back toward the middle.
"As a lifelong Republican, I can't, and won't, join
the Democrat party. But I may choose to support the anti-war groups that are
opposed not only to the coming war with Iraq but to the imperial tendencies
of the Bush Administration. I never thought I'd hear myself say those words,
but so far has Bush&Co. moved the government to the outer fringes of
morality and foreign policy respectability that I have no choice. And, now
that the conglomerates control the major newspapers and TV networks, I will
support the last truly free press in America -- the internet -- and work
toward trying to establish a more objective media, maybe even founding our
own TV network, one beholden to no party or faction."
"What's your gut tell you about our chances of
success?" I asked.
"Look, the Hard-Rightists worked like beavers, openly
and covertly, for nearly two decades to get where they are. They've finally
got all the reins of power in their hands and aren't going to give up
easily. In the short run, you're going to get your asses handed to you; in
the long run, those guys are gone. The American people may get taken
in by fear-mongering and lies for a while, but, in the end, they don't react
well to bullies and hypocrites. When the cracks begin to widen more, and
they will as Bush&Co keep pushing their extremist domestic and foreign
policies, you're going to see the American people turn very quickly against
their over-reaching rulers.
"I can't tell you when that will be; it could be as
early as 2004, or even sooner if the unraveling continues -- or it could
take a decade of hard work to get the job done. But, rest assured, that day
We had been on the phones for quite a while, and there
were folks lined up outside our booths. Shallow Throat spotted someone who
looked suspicious, hung up immediately, and walked quickly out of the
station. When my knees stopped knocking, I did the same, not looking back
over my shoulder.
Copyright 2002 by Bernard Weiner