Writing in the Guardian (here), Sidney Blumenthal paints a very bleak picture of W’s lieutenants – and of what they’re prepared to do to subvert institutions in their quest for an across-the-board Republican majority, drawing parallels (and making the connection) with Nixon’s regime to make his point. Two things stand out: one, in the matter of Deep Throat and the outing of Watergate scandal M/s Woodward and Bernstein, they may have been more of pawns than center-pieces. Which is not all bad, should you be willing to accept that it’s all personal in the end (Had it not been for Felt’s sense of injustice at having been passed over, would he have mounted the same campaign to out Nixon’s shenanigans? Probably not, but maybe someone else, slighted differently, would’ve had done something similar, one hopes). And second, even in today’s day and age and even in a country as enamored with detailed background checks on public figures as the US, a hard-line clique with such ethically ambiguous past as M/s Cheney, Rove and Rumsfeld have remained at the nerve center of decision-making, pushing their very narrow-minded agenda for a fairly long time.
A good friend who is a proud citizen of the US never fails to remind me of how numerous, deep rooted and powerful the “self correcting mechanisms” in the US society, economy and politics are. In matters such as these, however, I wonder whether I shouldn't ask him to research applicability of Rudi Dornbusch’s work on exchange rates and overshooting to social/ political change too (including, of course, the determination of the degree of overshooting which could materially impair, even if not permanently destroy, some or all of these "self correcting mechanisms").
Once again, the point is simple: we may not have the leverage that Mark Felt had, we may not create the impact that he did but what we will always have is the ability to increase the counterbalancing weight when things overshoot in the wrong direction - for this, as before, we need to remain ever vigilant.
51 years ago, on June 9, 1954, US Army counsel Joseph N. Welch confronted US Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy during the Senate-Army Hearings over McCarthy's attack on a member of Welch's law firm, Frederick G. Fisher. Said Welch: "Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?" Read the next day's reporting by New York Times here.
Such mechanisms of self-correction are not even close to being infallible, and are riddled with all manner of inefficiencies: imperfect information, time lags, inaccuracies in public perception. Ultimately, they are prey to some of the same vulnerabilities as liberal republicanism itself, a form of government that has throughout history shown just how vulnerable it can be.
The key point is that in our world as it exists today, the American self-corrective mechanisms are about as good as we've got -- if a pluralistic continental colossus purporting so deeply to value individual initiative cannot over the long run police itself effectively, then, I would offer, perhaps that says more about the human condition broadly than it does about one nation alone.
In the case of the Bush administration, let there be no mistake that public concerns about the inner clique have acted as continual headwinds against Bush's public ratings (weaker headwinds than I would have liked, but such, I suppose, is what happens with fearful publics everywhere). His victory last November was hardly resounding for a self-styled "war-time president," and resulted solely from his double-digit polling advantage on the issue of fighting terrorism. Current polling makes quite clear that the public isn't swallowing it anymore and, barring another major terrorist attack, I would expect the Republicans to be rather weak going into the 2006 midterm elections.
For some recent polling, see (I'm not aware of a more efficient means of copying URLs into a response, but just double-click and copy these into your browser, even if you can't see the whole link just yet -- registration required):
Bush's Political Capital Spent, Voices in Both Parties Suggest
Social Security Plan's Support Dwindling
Poll Finds Dimmer View of Iraq War
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