A Cancerous Tumor in the Body Politic:
Time for Surgery
By Bernard Weiner,
The Crisis Papers
August 16, 2005
When White House Counsel John Dean in 1973 told Richard Nixon that there
was a "cancer growing on the presidency," it wasn't totally clear if he
was referring to the Watergate coverup inside the White House, or to the
felonies committed by Nixon's closest aides, or, without coming right out
and saying so, to the President himself.
But, clearly, something toxic was eating away at the President's
legitimacy, Dean was suggesting, thus putting Nixon in potential legal
jeopardy. Something had to be done to protect the presidency, if not the
President, from the mortal danger symbolized by that cancer metaphor.
Nothing remedial was done; the coverup grew worse -- one lie and deception
and crime piled on another -- and the cancer killed Nixon's presidency.
With the Congress about to impeach him, he resigned in disgrace.
That medical metaphor is much on my mind these days, and not just when
thinking about the Bush presidency. Someone close to our family recently
was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. Something
potentially deadly was growing inside her body.
WHEN TUMORS MUST BE REMOVED
The tumor had to be removed, and it was excised a few days ago. She
appears to be recuperating well, but now steps will have to be taken
(chemo, radiation, change in diet, etc.) to ensure that the cancer does
not spread and that it will never return.
Going from the microcosmos to the macro, today there is a cancer growing
in the body of the American polity. Its aggressive nature has forced its
way into the social and political fabric of our lives, and is destroying
both from within.
This destructive malignancy was not removed at the first opportunity and
has now spread and infected the entire culture and political apparatus. It
is running rampant and is strangling the foundation upon which our nation
rests, the Constitution. It has leaped national boundaries and is
attacking other nations beyond our shores.
These foreign invasions and occupations are connected vitally to the
domestic outbreak at home. It's a closed loop, with one infection feeding
the other, and vice versa. (Oddly enough, attacks from foreign terrorists
seem to aid the power-cancer internally.)
But unlike in the time of Watergate, these days there are no journalistic
radiologists, such as Woodward and Bernstein, to identify the malignancy,
no skillful oncologists, such as Constitution scholar Sen. Sam Ervin, to
diagnose it, and no Congressional surgeons, such as Ervin and Howard Baker
and Peter Rodino, to remove it through impeachment and conviction.
The American corpus, which just a few years ago, was relatively strong, is
riven with social, political, economic and moral disease. The cancer,
barely noticed by most Americans, was growing slowly all this time, away
from direct public scrutiny, building its support network, infiltrating
into various organs of power (the media, think tanks, propaganda
ministries, electoral systems, education), and then, after decades, when
the moment was ripe, the cancer erupted in the highest halls of power, in
the White House.
The remedy of tumor removal/amputation -- via the surgery of impeachment
-- could begin the process of healing. But this cancer is notoriously
aggressive in maintaining itself in the face of assaults -- in this, it's
reminiscent of an organized criminal enterprise -- mainly by growing and
spreading into new areas where it attempts to control the situation.
At moments, when it appears to be cornered, it exudes a toxic slime over
its most notable critics and opponents. Examples: Paul O'Neill, Richard
Clarke, John McCain, John Kerry, Cindy Sheehan, et al. A new candidate for
those crosshairs is Patrick Fitzgerald, the Special Prosecutor who
potentially could indict much of the inner circle of the Bush
Administration in the Plamegate/Iraq War scandals.
There is also the possibility that the body politic, so turned off by the
outrageous aggressiveness of the bullying cancer -- and the high costs of
supporting its foreign wars abroad with blood and treasure -- will create
enough antibodies to drive out the malignancy in a periodic election in,
say, 2006 and/or 2008. (This assumes that the agents of the cancer no
longer will be controlling the voting machines and computerized
CANCER CELLS GROW WILD WITH POWER
If we've learned anything about cancer, it is that it must be confronted
and dealt with. You can't deny its existence, or wish it away, or play
nice with it and hope it will ease up on you. Cancers are cells gone wild
with their power. When such a malignancy shows up in a human body, you cut
it out, and then drive a symbolic stake through its heart through chemo
When a malignant tumor shows up in the polity, you follow the same
protocol. When the costs of denial become too great, when so much damage
and death and destruction is done in your name, then the cancer finally
has to be faced and dealt with. Society must mobilize itself for radical
surgery, and then through symbolic chemo/radiation -- reforms,
re-asserting the primacy of the rule of law and Constitutional
protections, re-establishing the checks-and-balances established by our
Founding Fathers -- try to ensure that one-party rule, authoritarian
leadership, police-state measures, "pre-emptive" wars, torture as state
policy, incipient native fascism, etc., do not have an easy chance to
re-assert themselves again.
But in order to reach this Restoration-of-Constitutional-Rule era, there
first must be a general consensus on the nature of the disease, indeed on
the fact that there is a malignancy on the loose, and thus a willingness
to combat it. In the past two Presidential elections, it would appear that
more than half the population voted for someone other than the
cancer-party candidate, but the "official" election results (counted by
corporations in lockstep with those in power) said otherwise.
IMPEACHMENT IN THE CARDS?
According to the latest polls, the American population has lost any faith
that the Bush Administration knows what it's doing in Iraq, and
increasingly they believe that the war -- which, as the top-secret, leaked
Downing Street Memos verify, was based on gross lies and deceptions --
wasn't worth it.
The public is a bit more willing to grant Bush a break in terms of
fighting terrorism, though it believes his imperial adventures abroad are
making it more, not less, likely that terrorists will attack the U.S.
again. But with the corporate-owned mass media more or less serving as a
propaganda arm for the Administration, and with Rove and his cohorts
constantly playing the fright card, the American public, but by a smaller
percentage all the time, tends to acquiesce to Bush&Co.'s anti-terror
If Bush's war in Iraq continues its disastrous slide into catastrophe, or
if a huge number of Bush indictments come down from the Plamegate grand
jury (especially if Rove, Cheney and Bush are either indicted outright or
listed as unindicted co-conspirators), critical mass may be achieved to
demand impeachment hearings in the Congress, especially if the Republicans
were to lose their majority in the House.
As a way of aiding that critical mass grow, it seems appropriate to close
this piece with the insights of the fellow that opened it: John W. Dean.
If there's anyone who appreciates what can happen to our democratic
republic when an arrogant president thinks he's above the law, it is Dean.
He wrote a book that examines the Bush presidency in that light, "Worse
Than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W. Bush" (Little, Brown).
Dean's reputation is that of a relatively circumspect, mild-mannered
traditional Republican, but what he has seen firsthand and learned from
others about the Bush-Cheney White House revolts his stomach. Check out
DEAN: "WORSE THAN WATERGATE"
"Their secrecy is extreme -- not merely unjustified and
obsessive... It has given us a presidency that operates on hidden
agendas. To protect their secrets, Bush and Cheney dissemble as a matter
of policy... Cheney openly declares that he wants to turn the clock back
to the pre-Watergate years -- a time of an unaccountable and
extra-constitutional imperial presidency. To say that their secret
presidency is undemocratic is an understatement."
"Cheney formed what is, in effect, a shadow NSC [National Security
Council]...It is a secret government -- beyond the reach of Congress,
and everyone else as well...Cheney knew that terrorism was the perfect
excuse, an ideal raison d'etre, for his 'let's rule the world'
philosophy. Politically, it would be much easier to be seen as shooting
back instead of shooting first, given the caliber of weapon Cheney
sought to wield. But he and his team did far worse than simply waiting
for an attack that would kill a sufficient number of Americans...It is
reasonable to believe that they planned to exploit terrorism before 9/11
handed them the issue ready-made for exploitation -- a fact they
obviously want to keep buried."
"Not since Lyndon Johnson hoodwinked Congress into issuing the Gulf
of Tonkin Resolution, which authorizes sending American troops to
Vietnam, has a president so deceived Congress about a matter of such
grave national importance. ...Bush and Cheney took this nation to war on
their hunches, their unreliable beliefs, and their
unsubstantiated intelligence -- and used deception with Congress both
before and after launching the war. ...The evidence is overwhelming,
certainly sufficient for a prima facie case, that George W. Bush and
Richard B. Cheney have engaged in deceit and deception over going to war
in Iraq. This is an impeachable offense."
"Their secrecy helps corporations and industries that are major
contributors. But with a deadly difference. Bush and Cheney have, from
the outset of their presidency, shown utter disregard for the human
consequences of their actions, both at home and abroad. ... What Bush
and Cheney are doing to the environment to curry favor with their
contributors is far worse than anything Nixon's 'responsiveness program'
ever did. The Bush-Cheney presidency is engaged in crimes against
nature, not to mention failing to faithfully execute the laws of the
ENDANGERING OUR DEMOCRACY
"The Bush-Cheney secrecy and style of governing carries
potential consequences that are far worse than any political scandal.
Their secret presidency is a dangerous threat to democracy in an age of
terrorism. ...Bush and Cheney have picked up where Nixon left
presidential power. They seek to free the presidency of all restraints.
They want to implement their policies -- a radical wisdom they believe
serves the greater good -- unencumbered by those who view the world
"When the moment comes and terrorists surprise America with an even
greater spirit-shattering attack than 9/11, Bush and Cheney will simply
push aside the Constitution they have sworn to uphold, inflame public
passions with tough talk to rally support...and take this country to a
place it has only been once. For eleven weeks during the outset of the
Civil War, President Lincoln became what scholars have euphemistically
called a constitutional dictator. But with terrorism it will likely not
be so brief. Bush once quipped, 'If this were a dictatorship, it'd be a
heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator.' George Bush,
however, is no Abraham Lincoln."
In short, the time has long since passed when the
political scalpels need to excise the malignant tumor that had lodged
itself into our public life. If we don't act, and soon, that cancer might
well destroy us all.
Copyright 2005, by Bernard Weiner