By interesting coincidence, the Bush mendacity road show is on the airwaves just when the film about Valerie Plame and Joe Wilson is in the theaters. Fair Game is well-written, well-acted, and well-directed, and it's hard to sit through without clenching one's fists in fury, as the entire nightmare again unfolds before you: the slow, unstoppable strategy of lying the nation into a war that has killed and devastated millions of innocent lives; the deliberate destruction of an important national security asset's career as retribution for her courageous husband's daring to tell the truth; and the right wing media machine, reflexively protecting its ideological allies by smearing and attempting to destroy two national heroes, caring not a whit for the truth, and once again putting the lie to its perpetual posturing of patriotic rectitude.
About halfway through the film, I recalled an earlier film about an earlier national scandal. But All The President's Men had a feeling of exultance about it. Because it had a sort of happy ending. A corrupt administration was forced from office. Criminals went to prison. The system worked. In some ways the current film is haunted by its earlier counterpart, because both films are so well done but only one recounts a story where the reality was well done. And with Bush on the road, hawking "his" book, one of the main stories making the rounds is of the supposedly difficult decision he made about commuting the sentence of rather than pardoning Scooter Libby. Poor Dick Cheney. Poor Scooter. And of course none of the media foofs interviewing Bush will go beyond that sordid level about personal loyalty and dare ask what Bush thought about an important national security asset's career being destroyed as retribution for her courageous husband's daring to tell the truth about Bush's lies.
As with all things Bush, the real story will not be allowed to become part of the story. Even now, the media protect the man they enabled to steal an election, get away with incompetently allowing a preventable national disaster, launch an illegal, immoral, and unjust war, spy on innocent American citizens, and commit the war crime of authorizing torture. But the Democrats also bear their share of blame. They did not investigate. They did not create a public record. They did not hold anyone accountable. And by so failing to do their civic responsibility, they allowed some of the architects of the Plame scandal to help buy the Republicans back into a share of national power. It's almost incomprehensible. It's not only bad for our national pretension of rule of law, it's terrible politics. It never was and never should have been about partisan politics, it should have been about revealing the truth, and following the law wherever the facts led it. But all that is gone, now.
In the Watergate scandal, we had Congressional committees led by an old school Southern Democrat and a machine politician from the industrial Northeast that defied expectation by doing their jobs openly and professionally, allowing the public to learn the truth and form its opinions in the process. We had a Supreme Court that ruled objectively and dispassionately, its most partisan and potentially biased member having the integrity to recuse himself rather than rule when he faced a blatant personal conflict. And we had Republican leaders who, when the facts finally had been revealed, no longer could protect their president, and so told him. We had media that took great personal and professional risks to investigate what the entrenched powers wanted them to ignore. The system worked. And that's the lesson of the new film. Because Wilson and Plame have moved on with their lives, but Bush roams free, cashing in, still working the system that made him, protected him, and makes and protects him still.
We don't have the media we had. We don't have the Supreme Court we had. We don't have the Republicans we had. We don't have the Democrats we had. The system no longer works.