Political Pot Pourri:
Rove, The Supremes & A Silent Scream
By Bernard Weiner, Co-Editor
The Crisis Papers
Coming out of the 4th of July weekend, a half-dozen thoughts worked
their way to the forefront:
1. I love old-fashioned, small-town 4th of July parades. When we lived
in Northern California's San Geronimo Valley in Marin County, we
participated, along with everybody else in the small rural community of
Woodacre, in as Norman Rockwell-like a parade as you can imagine. This
year, we were at the somewhat larger one in suburban Corte Madera.
There are floats and marching bands and bright-red firetrucks, kids on
red-white-and-blue-streamered bicycles and local politicians waving from
open cars -- the whole nine yards. Though there are exceptions, it is
rare to find in many of the thousands of such all-American parades any
public mention of the underlying meaning of the celebration and its
possible connection to our current struggle for liberty in the Bush era.
(Although in recent years, one has been able to find the occasional
anti-Bush T-shirt and protest sign, and on this year's 4th, I actually
saw an anti-war float in the parade, drawing quite a few cheers.)
I sometimes talk with teenagers and younger kids at these parades --
sometimes even their parents -- asking them if they know what we're
celebrating. Mostly I get blank stares, or references to fireworks,
barbecue picnics, and watermelons.
It breaks my heart as a former teacher to realize yet again how
ill-educated our citizens are when it comes to American history and to
the rights guaranteed by the Constitution. Rarely does one find citizens
connecting the dots about our country's civil liberties, the
Constitutional guarantees of due process, and where all that derived
from -- reaction to tyrannical imperial rule from England, and the
desire of the American colonists to make sure such heavy-handed
big-government excesses never would be permitted to happen again.
In past years, when I engaged in conversation with some paradegoers,
especially the adults, about how our current King George was running
rough-shod over the Constitution and the accompanying Bill of Rights,
often they said they were appalled to hear that. They just hadn't been
paying that much attention to what was going on, they said; they figured
that Bush, leading the country's "war on terrorism," was doing what has
to be done and they trusted him not to go overboard.
But this year, as the current polls reflect, the reaction of the public
is quite different. Nearly 60% think the war in Iraq is a mistake, and
42% nationally, according to the Zogby poll, think impeachment hearings
are in order if Bush lied our country into that war -- which certainly
seems to be the case, given the overwhelming evidence from the leaked,
top-secret Downing Street Memos from inside Tony Blair's war-council
Middle-class people I've talked with in recent days (and letters I get,
especially from moderate Republicans) seem more leery of Bush's
pronouncements, more suspicious of his policies and agenda, more willing
to entertain the likelihood that all governments lie big time, and that
while most such lies do little immediate damage, Bush's lies are getting
tens of thousands of people killed and maimed, and spending the U.S.
into humongous debt.
2. ROVE'S POTENTIAL LEGAL PROBLEMS
Let's forget for a second the hypocrisy of the GOP's going after
President Clinton because of private, consensual sex. Clinton, the
Republican pack finally came to spin, wasn't being impeached because of
his erotic misbehavior but because he lied under oath in denying it.
Now we're not quite there yet -- we don't know precisely what Karl Rove
said, to whom and when -- but let's suppose that Rove lied to a grand
jury and/or the FBI or other official investigators in connection with
the outing of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame. (Reportedly, Rove has
been named in the notes of Time Magazine's Matthew Cooper's as one of
key White House officals with whom he talked about Plame just days
before rightwing columnist Robert Novak revealed her name and job.)
Again, just speculating here -- since we don't know if the special
prosecutor is going after Rove because he may be one of the the Plame-leakers
or because he participated in a grand cover-up of whoever did the
leaking. But If Rove did indeed lie under oath or to the FBI, what are
the chances that Bush didn't know? And will the upright moralists of the
GOP demand Rove's head, will they urge he be removed from his White
House position? You know the answer as well as I do: There will be a
rally-'round-Karl chorus from the GOP, denying, delaying, smearing
And, if worse comes to worst in this scenario, Rove, if caught
red-handed, may attempt to escape a probable felony indictment on the
leaking charge by saying that he thought Plame's CIA status was
well-known in Washington; that way, he'd be off the legal hook, since in
order to fall afoul of the law, he would have to have KNOWINGLY revealed
her secret identity.
And if that doesn't work, and/or if Rove is indicted on a coverup
charge, there's always the good ol' presidential pardon, a
conflict-of-interest Republican speciality when the heat gets intense.
(Ford pardoned Nixon in the Watergate scandal, Bush#1 pardoned Caspar
Weinberger in the Irangate scandal -- before he'd even been charged with
So, Rove -- one of the most hated but most feared politicos in America
-- eventually may escape the legal noose currently locating itself
around his neck. But, Washington politics being what it is, one can
expect (as in the Watergate scandal decades ago) that, by turning over
one rock, a whole lot of other smelly scandals will be revealed.
Just think of it: Rove on trial, Kenneth Starr as his chief counsel,
with a witness list that might well include Robert Novak, Ambassador
Joseph Wilson IV (Plame's husband that Rove was angry at), Jeff Gannon/Guckert,
Judith Miller, Chris Matthews (who reported that Rove told him that
Plame "was fair game" after her husband criticized the Administration),
Bill Frist, Scott McClellan, John McCain, Ken Mehlman, Ralph Reed, et
al. What a show that would be!
3. THE PARTIES SWITCH POSITIONS
How to explain the whiplash-like reversal of the two major parties in
recent years? The Democrats, supposedly the more liberal, these days in
many ways is the more conservative -- trying to "conserve" what is best
about Constitutional government, our natural environment, our adherence
to open and honest rule. The Republicans, meanwhile, have turned into
the radical party, trying to "reform" or eviscerate much of the popular
New Deal/Great Society programs, and carrying out multiple wars abroad.
It used to be that the Republicans were the party of small-government
and states' rights. They were suspicious of privacy intrusions by the
Washington bureaucrats. Now it is the Democrats who rail about the
central government running roughshod over citizens' civil liberties.
It used to be that the Republicans were leery of foreign military
adventures, wanting to concentrate on taking care of our own citizens
and society first. Now it is the Democrats who are denouncing the
Administration's war-making abroad, and Bush&Co. policies and philosophy
("pre-emptive" wars) that will yield more such conflicts.
It used to be that Republicans were the party of budgetary restraint and
living within one's means. Now it's the Democrats pointing loudly at the
trillions of dollars of debt being racked up on Bush's watch, in order
to afford two wars and huge tax-relief to the already-wealthy.
It used to be that the Republicans, big on religion and "family values,"
were the party of moral absolutes, and the Democrats were tarred with
the "moral-relativism" brush. But those currently in control of the GOP
are quite willing to trim their moral sails to whatever wind will bring
them victory. The only goal is winning, and the ends justify the means.
This is true with regard to Iraq, and to domestic disputes as well. The
Democrats thus take great delight in pointing up the "hypocrisy" of the
Republicans in violating their own traditions and positions, in the hunt
Strange how the Republicans, captured by the far right wing of the
party, morphed into what they used to detest -- big-government coercers,
reckless military adventurerers abroad, intrusive collectors of all
sorts of private data about its citizens, moral relativists -- and the
Democrats have become the old-fashioned conservators of what is best
about America. Difficult to fathom. If anybody has any solid
explanations that explain this shift, I'd love to hear them.
4. THE SUPREME CULTURAL BATTLEGROUND
Justice Sandra Day O'Connor mistakenly has been viewed by the mainstream
press as a "centrist" on the Supreme Court; the awful realization is
that so far has the right wing moved the parameters that the "center"
has shifted. In truth, O'Connor was a staunch conservative, just not one
of those frothing-at-the-mouth rightists currently holding the reins of
GOP power. One can reasonably expect that she will be replaced by
someone more attuned to Bush/Cheney's stark, ideologically-based view of
One would like to believe that Bush, having suffered a number of major
legislative defeats in recent months (on Bolton, Social Security,
filibuster, etc.), might want to nominate someone reasonably mainstream,
just to get a quick victory in hand. But Bush apparently still believes
he has a lot of political "capital" to spend, and so he can afford to
push someone he knows will antagonize Democrats and
traditional-conservative and moderate GOP senators.
My guess is that Bush's first choice will be someone on the far right
edge of judicial philosophy, to get the Democratic opposition to say
they will filibuster. At which point, Bush will try to regroup the
Republicans to move to the "nuclear option" of changing the rules in the
Senate to eliminate filibusters, and thus require only a majority vote
for a nominee. If none of that works, he will nominate someone merely
thoroughly objectionable but not a Bork-like or Clarence Thomas-like
But who knows what Rove&Co. are cooking up in the White House kitchen?
Perhaps they'll go with a senator (Cornyn of Texas), or a former
solicitor-general (Olsen), or a Hispanic toady (Gonzales). The current
betting favorite is Gonzo.
We'll probably find out for sure later this week. Buckle your
seat-belts; the next few months are liable to be a very bumpy ride.
5. CONFUSION ON IRAQ POLICY
One wonders whether the inconsistent statements coming out of the White
House about what's happening in Iraq are planned to create confusion in
the public mind, or are evidence that this gang can't shoot straight
even with each other.
Cheney proclaims vociferously that the insurgency in Iraq is in its
"last throes." The commanding military officer, General Abizaid, on the
ground in Iraq, says the insurgency is about the same as it was six
months ago --i.e., healthy and active, able to mount major operations.
Rumsfeld, who at the start of the war said that the U.S. should be
wrapping up the post-war operation within six months, now says it may
take 12 years. Bush just talks vaguely about "staying the course" and
"completing the mission," as if constant repetition magically will make
Maybe they figure it doesn't matter what they say anymore, since their
base remains fairly solidly with them, and nobody else takes seriously
what lies come out of their mouths.
What is interesting is how quickly Bush has lost the trust of the
American public on the war. With his backside covered because of that
public revulsion toward the war, Republican Senator Chuck Hagel can come
right out and say that the Bush Administration has no coherent policy in
Iraq, that it's being made up on the fly, and that the U.S. is losing
the war. It took many years to get to this point during the Vietnam era.
So, while there are denials all the way around, it's not surprising that
so desperate are the Busheviks to do something, anything, to change the
dynamic in Iraq that they're willing even to talk with insurgent
representatives, as they've been doing in recent weeks.
As with Vietnam, this Iraq story is one that keeps getting worse.
Eventually, as with that war, the American people will have had enough,
will resent the deceptive way the country was bamboozled into attacking
Iraq and the incompetent way the invasion and occupation have been
managed, and will not put up with more deaths and maimings of our
soldiers. Then the citizens will demand withdrawal. My guess is that
this will happen sooner rather than later.
And who will the Bushies blame for the Iraq debacle? Not themselves, you
can be sure; they don't make mistakes. Yep, you got it: "weak-kneed
liberals" and the "liberal media." Stay tuned.
6. A SILENT SCREAM?
I couldn't believe my ears the other day while watching Bush's
Iraq-policy speech at Fort Bragg. What I was hearing was...nothing.
Usually, Bush's hand-picked audiences cheer loudly and often during his
speeches. But this time, the thousands of beret-clad troops in the
audience sat on their hands.
Polite applause started once, initiated by Bush Administration plants in
the audience, and that was it.
I almost pitied Bush. It reminded me of watching a stand-up comedian
"dying" in front of an audience that didn't think he was funny.
The audience was tailor-made for a Bush military speech: Officers and
young men and women in uniform. But this time, they remained mute, and
their silence said more than Bush's speech about the mood in this
country toward the Iraq War and the Administration's mishandling of it,
from the deceptions and lies underlying it to the bumbled occupation to
the current quagmire.
These are soldiers who could be sent down that rathole, and/or who know
those already there, and their silence made it plain that they didn't
want any part of it, and didn't accept Bush's platitudes about the war.
Good on them!
Copyright 2005 by Bernard Weiner
Bernard Weiner, Ph.D., has taught politics and international
relations at various universities, worked as a writer-editor with the
San Francisco Chronicle, and currently co-edits The Crisis Papers
(www.crisispapers.org). To comment, write