Beginning of the End–Richard Nixon Redux

It’s not always the same things that trip up presidencies, but it’s always the same attitude.

It’s not always the same things that trip up presidencies, but it’s always the same attitude.

The means justify supposed ends, whether that’s Iran Contras,
Watergate or lying our way to war. Oh, and there’s one other small
detail—justifying means requires a really small circle of sycophants. Like Bones at Princeton, only the initiated can play.

Of course you gotta keep it from coming unstuck and control is the
super-glue that holds conspiracy together. One of the most amazing,
admirable and truly pleasurable things about America is its shifting
fingers across the levers of control. Just when business or politics
thinks it has things figured out, the ground begins to move.

So, we watch as the smallest things become not so small within the Bush
administration. What can be patched, how smoothly and successfully,
depends upon how deep the cracks run (my gut tells me, all the way to
the bone). The mid-term election and its change in the stage-hands who
shift political scenery, has begun to expose just how much
patch-plastering has been done under the hasty paint job on a neocon
Potemkin village.

An Attorney General is about to be exposed as incompetent and let go; a
(Bush appointed) World Bank president on the brink of being asked to
step down by his own Board of Directors; a huge and deep and all but
insolvable dereliction of care for our Iraq war wounded; a $46 billion
Department of Homeland Security that can’t find its way to the
bathroom; horrendous increases in violence since the ‘surge’ in Iraq
and the president’s primary political advisor, Karl Rove, hoping to
avoid congressional subpoena.

The White House must be hoping for that line from The Wiz; “The good news is there ain’t no more bad news.”

But of course George Bush is not Richard Nixon. The latter
refused to turn over White House tapes of relevant conversations
relating to Watergate. So, it’s an entirely different circumstance.
We’re not talking about a burglary of opposition headquarters for
political purposes. This is just a firing of U.S. Attorneys for
political purposes and copies of relevant e-mails. That’s nowhere near the same thing.

And then with Nixon, there was the embarrassing eighteen minutes of
‘accidentally’ erased conversation on the tapes. Really bush-league,
that. Without a blush, the Bush White House has acknowledged that it
may have ‘accidentally’ lost (erased?) up to five million e-mails that
congress has required it to turn over.

Eighteen minutes. Five million e-mails. Nah, not even close to comparable. We’re a long way from those five unforgettable words Richard Nixon gravely pronounced to the nation,

“I am not a crook.”

Dick Nixon downplayed the Watergate break-in as mere politics. Under
increasing clouds of revelation, a number of his aides resigned in
disgrace. Set adrift and under questioning, they began to illuminate
Nixon’s role in ordering an illegal cover-up. Is Scooter Libby the tip
of George Bush’s iceberg?

Is he really going to accept a jail term for Dick Cheney?

Alberto Gonzales, on the other hand, is reliable enough to keep his
mouth shut, no matter the consequence. But it’s not the Gonzaleses and
Feiths and Wolfowitzes that get you in trouble, it’s their underlings, unwilling to be hung out to dry.

Libby is the first to flap on the White House clothes line, but the
office of the Attorney General is where those with a mind for
legalities are unlikely to turn in their careers for an all but failed
presidency. Fortunately, George Bush’s close advisors are not of the
Nixon vintage. Unless you count Colin Powell, Don Rumsfeld and Dick
Cheney. Condi Rice was only nineteen when Tricky Dick took that last
flight on Air Force One.

What we’re talking about here is a president stepping down before
his term is over. Presidents don’t do that unless they are stricken
physically ill, assassinated or impeached. This president’s
vice-president is so toxic that I doubt an impeachment will be allowed
that does not include him.

Nancy Pelosi has, for reasons known only to her and a few others, taken impeachment of the president off the table,
as she puts it. But it may not be her call to make. And it opens the
intriguing possibility of an impeachment of Cheney. That might well
serve the need of the country to make this administration answer to the
law, yet fall short of impeaching Bush.

Interesting possibility.

America is famously accepting of incompetence in their presidents, but
they have a steely disregard for liars. Jimmy Carter was among our less
politically competent presidents and yet the country holds him in high
regard. They didn’t reelect him, but they liked him. Bill Clinton, on
the other hand, was a hugely popular and intellectually awesome
president who suffers to this day from the impression that he was less
than honest in his personal relationships.

George Bush is as likeable as they come, a back-slapper and nickname
decider. But he lugs around the baggage of a presidency that allowed
some very questionable things to go on–if not with his approval, then
by looking the other way. Fair or not, Vice President Cheney is rated
by the public as an overwhelmingly devious and thoroughly untrustworthy
partisan, financially crooked as well. Rumsfeld is gone, but the
president still hauls his luggage as well.

So, if there is to be a tipping-point in this administration, it
seems we are there. It’s likely, if the president survives the next
several months without further disintegration within his
administration, he’ll be all right. But he’s certainly going to lose
Gonzales and he’s rapidly losing control on the ground and with the
American public in Iraq. With the Gonzales debacle, the rats will
either abandon ship or hunker down.

It’s rats that bring down presidencies.


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