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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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