Sunday, March 13, 2011

2006: Pot Kettle Black

The title to this post comes from a song by the Great American Rock Band, Wilco. Meanwhile, the end to GOP majorities in the legislative branch, to put it mildly, didn't turn out as well as I'd hoped. One could argue that, under Nancy Pelosi, the Dems did a better job of policing their own side's ethical violations. One could also argue that, under Barack Obama, the White House has ended up perpetuating some of the Bush Administration's worst policies on civil liberties. What one can't argue is that the GOP has covered itself in glory since returning to power, but one is welcome to try....

Pot kettle black. It seems to be the last arrow in their quiver. As indictments fly within the beltway, as investigations mount and trials commence, as the president publicly admits he broke the law and defies anyone to do a thing about it, GOP apologists have nothing left to say but “Pot kettle black!”

It would be absurd, of course, to argue that one political party has a monopoly on malfeasance and corruption. This writer and this publication have criticized the Democrats on these grounds for decades now. And one needs to be careful when tossing around words like “unprecedented” when it comes to the crimes of politicians. But “pot kettle black,” as a response to the current situation is so inadequate, it’s pathetic.

Really, it’s put up or shut up time. We have a constitutional crisis on our hands. The president is claiming he has the power to overrule any congressional statute, to ignore any court ruling. The question now for Republicans is whether they put their loyalty to the party over their loyalty to the Constitution. And for far too many, the answer is, “sure, why not!”

The Bush Administration broke the law in authorizing warrantless wiretaps. They could have gotten warrants from a secret court set up to cover such situations, even retroactively; they chose not to. They could have worked with the GOP Congress to change the law; they chose not to. Instead they chose to argue that they have the power to set the law aside, because Bush is the commander in chief, and the country is “at war.”

But these are the same people who tell us we may well be “at war” for the rest of our lifetimes. As Abe Lincoln recognized, if you give a president unlimited wartime powers, you give him the incentive to start unnecessary wars. Can anyone here come up with a recent example, say, of a president who started a war based on a rationale that turned out not to be true? Bingo!

Pathetic, whining GOP apologists. They tell us that the president is just doing his best to protect us from terrorists. The implication, of course, is that the president’s critics are traitors for daring to question him. But that dog won’t hunt anymore. The apologists claim there’s no evidence the administration abused these extraordinary powers to, say, spy on their domestic opponents–as if such evidence would be cheerfully volunteered without an investigation.

But these are the same people who blew the cover of an intelligence officer for cheap political revenge. They said anyone involved with leaking her name would be fired, but Karl Rove still has his security clearance. I’m sorry, but you don’t get to say “Pot kettle black” when this man helps run the executive branch. Rove is one of the blackest kettles in our history, an amoral thug who wins elections spreading false rumors of pedophilia and miscegenation. No administration that employs him earns the presumption of trustworthiness when under suspicion for abuse of power.

The apologists tried to claim that Carter and Clinton ran secret eavesdropping too, but as with so much else they claimed, it isn’t true. Those presidents followed the law. It turns out the kettle really is black.

Now that we know their love of party exceeds their love of country, here’s another question for Republicans: would you be so willing to grant such sweeping executive powers if the president’s name was Hillary instead of George? Didn’t think so. Then every last whining, pathetic GOP apologist who argued that Bill Clinton had to be impeached and convicted–in order to uphold the rule of law–needs to publicly sign a document stating, “Um, never mind about that rule of law thing after all.”

Meanwhile, let’s not forget that this is the same party that took control of Congress in 1994 vowing to “clean up the mess in Washington.” Right, and wouldn’t that be the same party that vowed to pass a balanced budget amendment? How’s that going, guys?

In any case, by nearly every empirical measure, the mess in Washington has gotten worse since the GOP took over the Congress. Earmarks, deficits, corporate welfare, pork, broken rules, party-line votes, poison-pill amendments, midnight markup sessions, overtime tallies, conference committee shenanigans, lobbyist-written legislation, ethics charges, outright bribery on the floor of the House–you name it, the Republicans took a corrupt Congress and made it far more corrupt. Kettle black. Kettle pretty damn black, fellows.

Does anyone want to place any bets on how many more Republican members of Congress will be indicted in 2006? Or even how many more counts Tom DeLay will be indicted on? Yes, whiners, I remember Jim Wright and Dan Rostenkowski. Bobby Baker, even. But I don’t recall a lot of Democrats arguing that they were actually God’s gift to American democracy, the way you apologists try to defend DeLay. Good riddance, a lot of Democrats said at the time, and if any current Democrats get caught up in the DeLay/Abramoff pay-to-play scandals, let the chips fall where they may. We’ll be happy to compare pots to kettles come November.

But for any one of you pathetic whiners who wants to claim a blackened pot, here’s three words for you: K Street Project. Your guys took over the Congress in 1994 and systematically set out to cut the other party out of the influence-peddling business. You can argue that the Democrats were influence peddlers in the past, and you can argue that they might try it again in the future. But you simply can’t argue today that the minority party is as guilty as the parade of Republicans getting caught elbow-deep in cookie jars. Your guys worked hard to corner the market on corruption, to cut the competition out of the loop, to create a monopoly of access-selling powerbrokers.

You’ve succeeded! The K Street Project tried to force corporate lobbyists to fire Democrats and hire only GOP apparatchiks. It worked! You write industry-friendly legislation calibrated precisely enough that no Democrat can vote for it, so you can tell your clients the Democrats can’t help them. It worked! You guys rule the roost. The one thing you can’t claim is that the pot is just as black, because you kicked the freaking pot out of the fireplace!

After running Congress for 40 years, the Democrats were splitting corporate campaign loot with the Republicans about fifty-fifty. And after running the show for a decade, the GOP now has a two-to-one advantage over their rivals. In some industries, like, say, oil, corporate cash flows to the majority party on a four-to-one basis. That’s a lot of soot on the family cookware.

Because theirs is the party of whining pathetic apologists, the Republicans have shown that they can’t be trusted to police their own behavior. Thankfully, there are still some judges and prosecutors who still put the rule of law over their loyalty to the GOP. But the party shows every intention of getting rid of people like that as soon as possible.

So here we are with our little constitutional crisis. The president says he broke the law, says he’s proud he broke the law, says he had every right to break the law, says he’ll continue to break the law. The corrupt GOP Congress pauses from their looting long enough to cast a yawn up Pennsylvania Avenue. So what are we going to do about it?

You say you love your country? Put up or shut up.

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