I couldn't believe it. "Shallow Throat" actually was smiling when we met on
the hiking trail along the old C&0 Canal near Bethesda.
The high-ranking GOP mole in the Bush Administration had spent so many of
meetings glum and paranoid, so I didn't know what to expect this time,
even with the lighthearted demeanor.
"You wouldn't believe the mood in the White House and in many of the other
departments," said Shallow Throat, giggling. "It's doom and gloom.
Couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of crooks and liars. I walk around the
corridors of power wearing a large grin inside.
"Their days are numbered. And they know it, too. They've read the election
returns from November and see the handwriting on the wall. Rumsfeld is
gone (perhaps to face civil lawsuits), and Bush and Cheney and Rove and
Rice and Hadley and Gonzales and the rest of the bunker crew are going
down and the only question is when.
"The citizens in November delivered their No Confidence verdict on this
crew of incompetent, corrupt, arrogant power-mongers. Not surprisingly,
the Democrats, so locked into their timid victim mode, seem unsure what to
do with their victory."
"What are you talking about?" I asked. "Reid and Pelosi are standing up
tall these days, along with most of the incoming chairmen of the important
committees -- Conyers, Waxman, Leahy, et al. They're not going to roll
WHO'S IN CONTROL OF WAR POWER?
"Look, I'm as happy as you are that the GOP is no longer in charge of the
Legislative branch of government," said ST. "The mantle of momentum and
far-right-conservative 'inevitability' is no longer around the shoulders
of those mean-spirited, corrupted White House officials and members of
Congress. But you're forgetting two important things:
"One, Bush&Co. still control the levers of war and the Justice Department
and much of the court system, including the Supreme Court, and they intend
to use them all. And why not? Their approval numbers are so low, they
figure they have nothing to lose by continuing their stop-me-if-you-can
"Second, your 'principled' Democrats are coming perilously close to
falling into the spider web trap Karl Rove has set for them."
"I'm a bit lost here," I replied, "not sure I understand that last
comment. What trap are you talking about?"
"Just use your noodle, my naive progressive friend," said Shallow Throat.
"What is dragging down the Bush Administration and was responsible for the
huge GOP defeat in November?"
"The war in Iraq?" I answered.
ROPING DEMOCRATS TO THE "SURGE"
"Bingo! You got it on the first try. So here the Republicans are being
destroyed by the war they started, and if they don't want to lose the
White House and Congress again in 2008 they've got to find a way to get
that albatross from around their necks and, at least partially, also
around the necks of the Democrats, thus wiping out the war as an issue.
"Bush and Cheney will not, repeat NOT, have the official defeat in Iraq
happen on their watch. Bush's shaky ego cannot handle yet another 'loser'
label. They've got to postpone the inevitable until after the 2008
election, so that a new President will have the defeat happen on his
watch. So they come up with the cockamamie idea of 'surging' more troops
into Baghdad as a so-called 'temporary' measure -- as if more troops will
wipe away all their misdeeds and will calm the anti-U.S. waters in Iraq.
"Uh, you were going to explain the 'trap' you say the Democrats are
walking into," I interjected.
"Right. The point is that the only way the Administration's escalation of
the war can possibly work for them is if the Democrats can be lured into
signing onto the plan. Harry Reid at first said he could accept the
'surge' if it really was temporary, just lasting a few months. And
Sylvestre Reyes, Pelosi's pick to head the House Intelligence Committee,
bought into the idea as well. Rove's plan was working."
"But Reid backed away quickly from his initial comments once he heard the
uproar from his base," I countered. "And Reyes, not the brightest light
bulb, will do whatever Pelosi tells him to do."
"The point is that your Democrat friends are behaving as if they can't
believe the electorate put them in charge of Congress. The Democrats still
seem to be afraid of doing anything major on Iraq, lest they be termed
'unpatriotic' if they don't 'support the troops.' They seem to be ignoring
the fact that the voters swept away the Republicans precisely to get our
young soldiers the hell out of that civil-war rat hole as quickly as is
practicable. Every time one of Bush's 'emergency' funding bills for the
war comes up -- for another hundred billion dollars -- your liberals fall
all over themselves to jump on the war bandwagon. Money is their lever --
STEPPING OUT FOR REAL CHANGE
"So what would you have the Democrats do?" I asked.
"The first thing your liberal friends are going to have to realize," said
ST, "is that these Bush guys are not going to leave the premises
voluntarily. They are correctly frightened of future jail terms, for one
thing, and they'll fight to the death to stay in power. You're either
going to have to impeach them or cause them such problems governing that
the powers-that-be in the Republican party demand they resign. I think
Pelosi and Reid, despite their public expressions, understand that.
"Impeachment won't fly immediately, but if the investigations into
Administration policies in Iraq and elsewhere are handled correctly and
fairly, the tumblers will click into place, perhaps as early as the
Spring, and the American people will come to understand the enormity of
Bush&Co.'s policy crimes -- in Iraq, on torture, on domestic spying, on
energy and so on -- and realize that impeachment is the necessary and
proper Constitutional remedy for removing them.
"In the meantime, the Democrats can, through the power of the purse
strings, demand that monies for the Iraq War be used for bringing the
troops home, not escalating the conflict. And certainly not for starting a
new war by bombing Iran, or encouraging the Israelis to do it for them,
both of which scenarios are being planned as we speak."
"What you're asking the Democrats to do is to step way out there, way
beyond the normal parameters of political behavior, and the American
people in general may not accept that."
DRIVING A STAKE THROUGH THE HEART
"Damn it, this is not politics as usual; these guys have been taking
America down an imperialist, near-fascist road. You know it, I know it,
and the American people suspect that this crew is a clear and present
danger to the national security of the United States. The way Bush&Co.
have been behaving is endangering us all, our economy, our Constitutional
protections, our nation's standing and ability to move successfully in the
world, killing and maiming tens of thousands of our own troops,
slaughtering hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians, and in so
doing helping attract a new generation of suicide jihadists eager to
"If you want to get the U.S. back on a reasonable course, we all are going
to have to 'step way out there,' to use your phrase -- the Democrats, we
traditional conservatives, the media. We simply have to pry their fingers
off the levers of power, and the only way to do that is to force them out
of their bunker, shine the light of truth on them, and then evict them. A
political stake-through-the-heart approach. Do you think your Democrat
friends are up to the task? I seriously wonder."
"Yes," I said, "I do believe they can do it, if our activist base remains
strong, and if the Democrats in Congress stay sharply focused in their
investigations; if that happens, we can bring the Republicans and
Independents along who voted for Bush in '04 but abandoned the Republicans
as too extremist in '06.
"To get to impeachment or resignation, we need a united front of revulsion
and commitment. I think Pelosi and Reid are smart and are determined to
get the country back on course. But they will be facing extreme pressures
to ease up, to back away from confrontation, to go along to get along. We
have to keep their feet to the fire and constantly remind them who won the
election and why."
"I admire your optimism, and I shared it right after the November
election," said Shallow Throat. "But I've seen these Democrats cave so
easily and so often before, I'm thinking that maybe the best we can hope
for during these next two years is mild opposition, the Dems acting mainly
as a brake on the most extreme policies and nominations but not helping
create the conditions to remove these guys from power and thus save
thousands of lives. Instead, the Democrats may more or less abandon the
field as they look forward to 2008 -- in effect, with blood on their
hands, enabling the worst aspects of CheneyBush policy. Then, if history
is any guide, the Dems will tear each other apart, opening the door to
another generation of GOP extremists in the White House."
And with that, a much more somber Shallow Throat said goodbye and turned
off a path that, I couldn't help noting, diverged in a yellow wood.
Copyright 2006, by Bernard Weiner
Bernard Weiner, a poet-playwright and Ph.D. in government
& international relations, has taught at universities in California and
Washington, worked as a writer/editor with the San Francisco Chronicle for
nearly two decades, and currently co-edits The Crisis Papers
(www.crisispapers.org). To comment: