Sunday, February 27, 2011

2006: Don Knotts and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Published in the Santa Cruz Comic News on the cusp of the 2006 midterm elections. As for my comments regarding potential prosecutions of Bushistas, well, hope springs eternal. But you never know....:

Image by Drew Freidman
What does the late Don Knotts have in common with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Spanish-language DJ El Piolin, and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? Give up? The answer is that they’re all symbolic of the Bush Administration’s willingness to put its own political survival ahead of the national interest.

Of course, that’s no surprise in itself. By now at least two out of every three Americans realizes that Bush and his cronies can’t be trusted with our national security, our national treasury, our national integrity or our national infrastructure (the rest of you can do Google searches on “Iraq + WMD,” “budget deficit,” “Abu Ghraib” and “Katrina”).

The thing is, the Bush Republicans are starting to get a little desperate these days. It reminds me of a recent news story involving Silvio Berlusconi. Even though Italians voted him out of office, he plans to keep on showing up every day at the Prime Minister’s office and going to work. In a sense, that’s what Bush has been doing since Day One: insisting he’s the President, no matter what the voters said.

But like Berlusconi, the Bushistas face the very real possibility of prosecution if the opposition party takes over. Flip fifteen House seats and/or six Senate seats this fall, and all of a sudden you have Democrats with subpoena power – with a fairly juicy set of scandals to investigate, all swept under the rug to date by Bushie’s rubber-stamp Congress.

Of course, even if the Repubs manage to gerrymander and Diebold their way into hanging on to the 110th Congress, there are still several relentless prosecutions that threaten to knock over GOP officeholders like septuagenarian lawyers on a quail hunt with Dick Cheney. The casts of characters overlap so much that the various prosecutors have to be spending an awful lot of time comparing notes.

Let’s see, there’s the New Hampshire phone-jamming scandal, recently tied in to the RNC and the White House. That overlaps with the Abramoff /DeLay scandals, which one GOP legislator predicted would still bring down at least a half dozen more of his colleagues. These link up through Karl Rove to the Valerie Plame/Traitorgate scandals, which may yet bring down Rove himself, or even Cheney. That overlaps – through the neocon Politburo – to the AIPAC scandal, which has already sent one Pentagon honcho to prison.

Now, that’s where Condi comes in. Lawyers for two of the defendants – lobbyists for the state of Israel accused of receiving illicit classified information – have subpoenaed her to testify. They claim that Condi leaked to them, too, just like Lawrence Franklin, who recently received a 12-year sentence for doing just that.

If that’s not ironic enough, note that Condi’s leakage was announced the same day the CIA fired a career officer for unauthorized leaking. Now it later turns out that Mary McCarthy may not have leaked the information in question, since she never had access to it. But she was guilty of contributing funds to Democratic campaigns, which seems to be a bigger crime to partisan hack Porter Goss, hired by Bush to purge the CIA of disloyal elements.

Of course, Ms. McCarthy’s alleged leak, regarding our network of secret torture prisons abroad, resulted in several Pulitzer Prize-winning news stories. That sent the remaining Bush backers into a tizzy. Morality czar Bill “I’m gambling away my kids’ inheritance” Bennett suggested the reporters deserve to be given prosecutions, like the AIPAC lobbyists, rather than journalism awards.

Let me leave it to another ex-CIA officer, Larry Johnson, to explain the distinction: “There is a fundamental moral and ethical difference between someone who leaks information in order to serve the public good and someone, like George Bush, who authorizes leaks only for the purpose of saving his sorry political ass.”

Bingo! Whoever leaked the story about your tax dollars at work in overseas dungeons did this country a great service. With a trigger-happy CIA Director enforcing political orthodoxy, that leak should, in fact, be covered by federal whistleblower protection. Whereas Scooter Libby, along with Rove, Cheney, Condi’s deputy Stephen Hadley, and, yes, the pretend President of the United States, Gee Dubya Bush, apparently conspired to leak lies and misinformation to the American public in order to drag us into an illegal war.

When those lies began to unravel, they leaked classified information for cheap revenge against a critic. And when that crime came to light, some of them appear to have lied to federal investigators about it. That puts one in serious legal jeopardy, whether the voters made you president or not. You’ll recall that when the Plame investigation began, Bush and Cheney lawyered up right away – not with administration counsel, but with private criminal attorneys. We may yet find out why.

Which brings us back to this fall’s elections. A lot of people’s sorry political asses are at stake, so the GOP has been desperately casting about for a wedge issue, like gay marriage, to energize their base. They thought they had the perfect wedgie with immigration. Fear of the brown-skinned hordes plays well with regular GOP voters, and they hoped that working-class resentment of foreigners stealing jobs could peel votes off the Democratic base as well. It looked good on paper, but that’s where El Piolin comes in.

Piolin and other Spanish-language radio hosts helped to publicize the massive street protests that stopped the GOP’s anti-immigrant push in its tracks. Faced with legislation that would make a felony out of bypassing immigration paperwork, millions filled the nation’s cities with an unprecedented demonstration of people power.

Karl Rove may not have done his homework on the Espionage Act, but he does know his electoral math. Latino voters are a larger minority every election, on their way to being a majority in some states. If Republicans don’t attract a larger percentage of the Latino vote every election, they’re in trouble. If they make enemies of those voters, like they have with blacks, they’re sunk.

Cue the backtracking. The Bushistas need another election issue to rally the voters to their side. But since they can’t run on military acumen, fiscal rectitude, or disaster preparedness, that’s where Mr. Ahmadinejad comes in. The White House apparently believes, seriously believes, that voters can be persuaded to retain the current group of charlatans running the Congress if they can somehow be persuaded that the Iranians are about to nuke us, and only the manly Republicans can save us.

Can that work? The water from that well is rather on the fetid side these days, but you know the saying about underestimating the intelligence of the American people. They’ve been persuaded to believe all kinds of goofy things by Karl and the gang. I’d hope that the voters are like NY Times columnist Tom Friedman, who originally believed just about everything the Bushistas leaked to justify war with Iraq. He’s finally had enough. Given a choice between Iranians with nukes, and letting Cheney and Rumsfeld run another war, says Tom, he’ll take the Iranians with nukes.

Luckily, that’s not the actual choice, since the Iranians are at least a decade away from actually being able to construct a working nuclear bomb. Ahmadinejad makes it easy to demonize them, since he keeps saying wacky things and acting defiant, but he’s still no Saddam, or even an Islam Karimov (Bush backers, take another Google break).

It’s worth remembering that the Iranians elected a militant president in response to Bush’s saber-rattling. The last Iranian president was relatively moderate, and we were told then that it didn’t matter, since the mullahs were the real power in Iran. That’s pretty much true; the mullahs get to decide who runs for president in Iran – kind of like Wall Street in this country.

But if the reality is that Iran is not much of a threat, you have to remember that reality is not the Bushistas’ strong suit. And besides, they have an election to win. They know damn well that even if Americans don’t support a war before it starts, they will rally around the troops –and of course their commander-in-chief – for at least a little while once it begins. And a little while is all they need to keep the subpoenas at bay for the rest of the term.

Of course, back in reality, we don’t have the troops or the budget for a third war, so the only alternative is to do it on the cheap. As Seymour Hersh reports in the New Yorker, that means using our own nuclear weapons. And we certainly do have a lot of those on inventory, having spent several trillion on them over the past half century or so. This makes perverse sense; Bush is the guy who executed 154 people to show that you shouldn’t kill. Why shouldn’t he drop nukes to show that you shouldn’t have nukes?

Becoming the first president since Harry Truman to use nuclear weapons might prove surprisingly popular; you never know until you try. On the other hand, it could usher in a massive wave of terrorist attacks, international boycotts, and an Iranian invasion of Iraq. Under those circumstances, the instincts of the current administration would be to criminalize dissent on a scale that makes the Patriot Act look like the Emancipation Proclamation. They’ve already hinted about jailing whistleblowers and banning street demonstrations, and we know they’re not exactly averse to detention camps.

In that case, the next elections would be kind of a moot point. Which brings up one vital question: where does Don Knotts fit into all of this? In the immortal words of John DiIulio, the first person to resign in protest from the White House of Bush the Lesser:

"There is no precedent in any modern White House for what is going on in this one: a complete lack of a policy apparatus," said DiIulio. "What you’ve got is everything—and I mean everything—being run by the political arm. It’s the reign of the Mayberry Machiavellis."

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