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Cross-posted at The Next Hurrah

For once we've got reason to hold our breaths in anticipation that we might rid ourselves of one of the nastier GOP leaders because the law finally caught up with him. And Tom DeLay is not alone. Hold our collective breath long enough and we might rid ourselves of Frist, Abramoff, Norquist, Douglas Feith, Rove plus any number of Bush Administration officials tied to the Plame outing, and--as firedoglake informs us--Richard Perle.

But it's time we thought beyond these indictments.

I say that for two reasons. First, the indictment to conviction to incarceration rate of well-connected GOP officials has got to approximate Brett Favre's winning percentage this year. I'm convinced Bush has never tried out his Veto Pen because he plans to use it to replace his Pardon Pen, when that runs out of ink. And it's not just pardons--with what BushCo lawyers will be getting paid, there are bound to be all sorts of legal shenanigans designed to get their clients off.

But also, indictments are no guarantee that we'll be rid of these guys permanently. Indeed, somewhere deep in the GOP bureaucracy there seems to be a job placement center dedicated entirely to placing rewarmed Iran-Contra felons. We need to prevent Michael Ledeen, twenty years from today, from passing forgeries again through his buddy Manucher Ghorbanifar.

First, let me comment on a strategy that will not work--impeachment. Put aside all discussion about whether this is politically feasible, either from a tactical perspective or a historical one. Put aside creative schemes about simultaneous double impeachments following Democratic victories leading to a Pelosi presidency. Impeachment won't work because it will allow the Republican party to publicly cleanse itself of its guilt. If enough Republicans were to support impeachment, it would create a fiction that these Republicans never had anything to do with the impeachees, that they didn't endorse them, that they didn't go along for their own (considerable) profit. The Republican majority is, today, knowingly and willfully enabling the sale of our national interest to the highest bidder and we can't let them pretend any differently. Because if they're allowed to pretend differently then one of them will lead a resurgence and we'll end up with President George Prescott Bush hiring Stephen Hadley as his Defense Secretary fifteen years from now.

No. We've got to find a different way to rid ourselves of these guys, permanently. Here are my suggestions for what we need to do--I'd love to hear yours.

Expose the Truth

When Poppy pardoned Cap Weinburger he did more than save his friend. He prevented the full truth from being told. Heck, if we had learned the role Poppy really had in Iran-Contra, we'd probably not have his son messing with our country right now!

I think--but I'm not positive--that we've got a way to avoid this from happening this time. At least in the Plame Affair, we've got a private citizen with a legitimate reason to sue those who wronged her. So the second Bush starts pardoning Judy Miller to prevent the truth from coming out, the Wilsons can borrow Fitz' notes and get their own access to subpoena Judy and Rove and all their friends. No pardons in a civil lawsuit. While the government would no doubt try to classify some of the testimony in such a lawsuit, I doubt that will succeed with the media.

I'm hoping we won't need to use secondary tactics with the Abramoff cases (the other case that we'll need to expose fully to discredit the criminal Republicans for the long term). I mean, there are so many of them, two or three of them are bound to come to trial, right? But if one after another federal prosecutor somehow all get demoted and we don't get trials, we might be able to appeal to the greed of those involved to get them to tell their stories. The question is, can we get any of them to deliver on huge book deals before John Gotti's associates knock them off?

Tell the Story

The next thing we need to do is to explain, in very easy terms, what these guys did wrong. And what the implications are for America.

At least with some of these scandals, the stories are easier--and sexier--than Iran-Contra and even than Watergate. "Karl Rove Exposes Beautiful Blond Spy, Gets Agents Killed" "Republican Fundraiser Paid for Mob Killing" the headlines will read. The trick will be to tell the more obscure parts of the story. Get Chris Eyre to make a movie about the tribes bilked by Abramoff. Get some unemployed South  Carolina UNITE workers to go on tour, talking about how their jobs were offshored because Jack Abramoff and Tom DeLay wanted to fill their slush fund. And someone--I hope it won't have to be me--is going to have to appeal to the fears and prejudices of the American people on this. Do I think it relevant that Douglas Feith was selling secrets to Jews and Harold Rhode was funnelling secrets through Chalabi to Iranians as opposed to, say, the British? Nope. But will some Reagan Democrats care they were selling secrets to, you know, "minorities"? You bet.The point is, we need to get an overwhelming majority of people in this country to understand how much Bush and his cronies have sacrificed the best interests of our country.

Sacrifice Our Own Liabilities

I've long thought the moment when John Kerry transformed from inspiring war hero and peace activist into the kind of guy who would vote "for it before he voted against it" was when, at the request of party leadership, he backed off Clark Clifford in his BCCI investigation. Sure, he passed on his notes for criminal prosecution. But he missed the opportunity to put principle before party where it mattered--in DC.

This time around, we must refuse to back off our own. I guarantee you if we investigate the Abramoff network long enough, we'll ensnare some Democrats along the way. And if we follow CREW's lead, we'll lose Maxine Waters and William Jefferson along the way. But we've got to change the way things are done in DC and that will require purging some of our own.

Offer an Alternative

Did I say we've got to change the way things are done in DC? I'm hoping that the story of defense employees selling secrets to foreign lobbies will make it easy to explain to people the danger of the influence industry in DC. I'm hoping that when taxpayers figure out how much they have personally paid into the coffers of Halliburton because Dick Cheney and Joe Allbaugh wanted to get richer, then they'll realize how the influence industry has taken over our entire government. In any case, we need to provide a map to ending the power of special interests in government. I'd like to hear Russ Feingold and Howard Dean hammering on this issue over and over and over. And describing how a citizen-led government would differ from a lobbyist-led one.

But we've got to offer more than an alternative to K Street. One of the reasons the Iran-Contra crowd convinces people of their ongoing relevance is because the issues they were trying work around--rising Iranian influence and commitments to sustaining our hegemony--are more threatening than they ever have been. Yeah, we allowed Ghorbanifar to seduce us because we wanted to forestall Russian influence in Iran, which we saw as an existential threat. But Iran is now positioned to extend its power across the (oil-producing) Middle East backed this time not only by Russia, but by China as well. Such a move could be just as threatening to the American way of life, if Iran wanted it to be. But you know what? That's not going to change so long as we're sucking off the Middle Eastern teat. Especially not now, because the Iranians seem to be a whole lot smarter and patient than any of the people I see in DC. Know what that tells me? If making stupid deals with Iran keeps getting us into trouble but we keep trying to make those stupid deals because we're trying to have our oil-encrusted cake and eat it too, that says we've got to cut back on the cake or keep getting into trouble. Sounds really obvious, but it's an area where the Democratic Party seems to be falling behind even some Neocons. I'd go further than just energy efficiency to embrace the notion of sustainability in all areas of our foriegn policy. We've reached a point where we can no longer maintain both American hegemony and our exceptionalism; if the Democrats are serious about preventing the return of the Watergate Iran-Contra Abramoff cronies, we need to offer a new paradigm that doesn't make it so easy for them to appear useful.

Whew. Well, I've had my say, and the dog is getting really antsy for his walk. What suggestions do you have to get rid of these guys for good???

Originally posted to emptywheel on Wed Sep 28, 2005 at 08:08 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  This to me was the key event of the '90s (4.00)
    When Poppy pardoned Cap Weinburger he did more than save his friend. He prevented the full truth from being told. Heck, if we had learned the role Poppy really had in Iran-Contra, we'd probably not have his son messing with our country right now!

    Absolutely unprecedented in American history, a President pardoning someone BEFORE they were charged with a crime SOLELY to head off testimony by that person concerning crimes committed by the President BEFORE he became President.  I think that that right there exposed the Republicans for what they truely are deep down in their black hearts.  

    Last year, I was working in the US Embassy in Kiev, Ukraine.  Poppy came to visit, pimping for a corrupt Ukrainian industrialist who was trying to buy a steelworks that the gvt was privatizing in exchange for a "donation" (read:  bribe) to the Poppy Presidential Library.  I sooooooo wanted to ask him about those despicable pardons, but limited myself to not being one of the fawning masses yearning for his autograph and standing there with my arms folded.  I regret to this day not being more assertive.  Im only an enlisted guy in the military, what did I have to lose?

    Economic Left/Right: -7.25 Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -5.13

    by calipygian on Wed Sep 28, 2005 at 08:13:39 AM PDT

  •  I am one who has suggested in the past (4.00)
    to use the same methods against the Republicans as they have used against Democrats. To appeal to the those who claim to espouse Christian values i suggest that the one of the prevailing themse for 2006 mid-terms is the use of Matthew 7:15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.  
    7:16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?  
    7:17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.  
    7:18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.  
    7:19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.  
    7:20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

    As it says, you will know them by what they do. Additionally, our juducual system is based on "reasonable doubt" so if reasonable people believe that Rove leaked Plame's, name. DeLay is crooked, then that is enough for me.

    Those who are willing to sacrifice liberty for safety deserve neither. (Paraphrasing B. Franklin)

    by p a roberson on Wed Sep 28, 2005 at 08:24:59 AM PDT

  •  I wonder if these crooks (4.00)
    laugh at that American people for their lack of attentiveness to their outrageous, criminal behavior.

    I can just see Norquist, Abramoff, Cheney, Rove, and others without any respect for law or ethics whatsoever, sitting around over drinks one late evening, LAUGHING AND WHOOPING IT UP because the American taxpayers are so stupid and inattentive.  Their attitude: "BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!! YOU COMMON PEOPLE ARE SO STUPID!!  WE STEAL BILLIONS OF YOUR TAXPAYER DOLLARS, AND WE LAUGH IN YOUR FUCKING FACES!!!"  

    -4.75, -5.33 Cheney 10/05/04: "I have not suggested there is a connection between Iraq and 9/11."

    by sunbro on Wed Sep 28, 2005 at 08:49:24 AM PDT

    •  That's the message (4.00)
      We need to send. BushCo is mocking us--all of us. You like being laughed at? Vote Republican. Hate it? Want to get your revenge? Put these crooks behind bars for the rest of their lives.

      This is the way democracy ends Not with a bomb But with a gavel -Max Baucus

      by emptywheel on Wed Sep 28, 2005 at 08:55:16 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  My local paper printed my LTE this week: (4.00)
        Editor:

        The true function/purpose of government, as stated in the preamble to the Constitution, and made patently clear by the Katrina tragedy, is to look out for the common welfare of the people. In the face of an overwhelmingly disastrous situation, in which the poorer members of our society, many of whom, through no fault of their own are physically incapable of fending for themselves, such as the elderly and infirm, need help in order to sustain their lives, it is up to the rest of society to either personally, or via government, to reach out and help.

        The problem with government is not government. It is the "Michael Brown Syndrome". It is the problem of a government hijacked by a cabal of ideologues whose true purpose is to enrich themselves on the backs of average citizens, while telling us that government is the problem. It is the problem of a government that no longer functions for the common good because its managers are incompetent friends of George. As one wise Texan observer put it: George W. Bush is great at running, but lousy at governing. What we have is a PR government. The MO of the White House is to paint a picture of compassion and competence, while they steal from the cookie jar, and let the institutions of government decay from within. When things go wrong, instead of taking steps to correct the problem, all the Karl Roves of this world seek to do is more PR, to spread lies to try to make the problem disappear into a he-said/she-said morass. Unfortunately, the Fourth Estate has become Karl's willing mouthpiece, instead of doing the job expected of them by our Founding Fathers: exposing hypocrisy and fraud, and holding the politicians' feet to the fire.

        Anyone who believes that the George W. Bush administration cares one fig about the common citizen is a chump. We've elected a bunch of greedy incompetents who take no responsibility for actually doing the jobs for which they are collecting their six-figure salaries.

        When the GOP says that government is the problem, what they really mean is "look over there" while they siphon off our hard-earned tax-money through their `privatization' schemes, whose real purpose is to enrich their cronies, who, in return, pay for their campaign committees, by contributing our tax-money to the GOP PACs. Instead of working to reduce our tax burden they have shown themselves to be a depraved bunch of elitist parasites who think that compassion is for chumps and government `service' is a free meal ticket to loot and plunder the public treasury.

        We have now seen the true face of `compassionate conservatism': thousands drowned, and dead for lack of water and food, as the George W. Bush White House tries to keep from poking itself in the eye, while telling the rest of us not to "play the blame game."

  •  Bleeding heart liberal that I am (4.00)
    I regretted this statement...

    Do I think it relevant that Douglas Feith was selling secrets to Jews and Harold Rhode was funnelling secrets through Chalabi to Iranians as opposed to, say, the British? Nope. But will some Reagan Democrats care they were selling secrets to, you know, "minorities"? You bet.

    ...during my whole walk. (Dog was wondering why I was so gloomy even though it was a magnificent fall day.)

    It's not that I want to race bait. I'm just saying that this message will resonate for some people primarily in the context of their own fears. Yeah, I want to alleviate their fears by addressing the root cause of it, their fundamental insecurity (economic and otherwise). I want to educate them so their insecurities aren't expressed primarily in terms of race. But first, I want to 1) reclaim power and 2) make damn sure these nutcases can't come back and ruin America all over again. I guess I would appeal to their fear primarily by talking about selling secrets to enemies.

    This is the way democracy ends Not with a bomb But with a gavel -Max Baucus

    by emptywheel on Wed Sep 28, 2005 at 08:53:04 AM PDT

    •  I got it (none)
      emptywheel.  You've got enough street cred we knew what you meant :)

      And you are the one who has said for a long time, we need to keep the story SIMPLE so that the public's eyes do not glaze over a la Iran Contra when the story gets too confusing.  

      Further, with a story as sexy and engaging as Traitorgate, the press is so complicit in the problem that the tale is not going to be effectively woven in the MSM.  

      Bloggers to the rescue...

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