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Political Animal

An Ill Wind

By Brian Morton | Posted 3/15/2006

The question is, at what point will the Republican leaders of the U.S. Congress see that their responsibilities lie more with their consciences than their party? Over the last few weeks, as we’ve seen George W. Bush’s political capital seep away like rain sluice from a gutter, we have also seen the leaders of the GOP decide that it’s every man and woman for themselves, and let the chips fall as they may. Karl Rove is not a player in this White House anymore, and without the strong hand of Rove’s sage political advice, the members of this administration are simply biding their time until they see a strong wind blowing.

This is looking to be an ugly political summer on the national front, with possibly an uglier fall than the one we endured two years ago. The Republicans can see an unpopular president who has no desire to engage in serious policy and can no longer be propped up by a canned media chorus of Fox News, MSNBC, and Rush Limbaugh. The Katrina disaster tore the emperor’s clothes off, Harriet Miers pointed out the warts, and the Dubai Ports World fiasco finally took the blinders off the faithful. A politically naked Bush is something no one wants to look at for too long.

So now Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), someone who has never bent to whatever breezes blow in Washington, is introducing a bill to censure the president for the illegal spying on U.S. citizens that the government has admittedly been conducting since virtually right after Sept. 11.

It really is almost a joke—the chances of the Senate censuring this president are about the same as driving out to an Exxon station tomorrow and finding gasoline at 1998 prices. The point behind the censure move by Feingold is more to keep the issue on the table and to remind the public that the Senate decided to go along with a Republican plan that would call for supposed “oversight” of the illegal spying, rather than actually look into what has transpired over the last four years since we were attacked by al-Qaida.

The Bush administration constantly argues, “No, we can’t look into this, as it will help the enemy.” But consider this question: When was the last time you recall hearing of a change in the national alert status since the presidential election? Those of us here at Animal Control have actually been paying attention, and we can’t think of any real changes in the color-coded alert system since John Kerry and John Edwards were dispatched in November 2004. If you recall that year, then-Homeland Security director Tom Ridge was rolling out threat analyses every other week, one after Kerry announced his running mate, another after the Democratic National Convention would normally have produced a “bounce” in the polls for the Democratic ticket. On Sept. 7, 2004, Dick Cheney, now more infamous for sober assessments of what is or is not a low-flying duck than for anything else, told America, “It’s absolutely essential that eight weeks from today, on Nov. 2, we make the right choice, because if we make the wrong choice then the danger is that we’ll get hit again. And we’ll be hit in a way that will be devastating.”

The American public has seen the homeland security card played to death over and over again. Now that the Dubai Ports World issue has shown how hollow the Bush arguments are—and they have nothing to do with the relative merits of the deal, what with no real significant threat to assets or security involved—the administration is stuck between the arguments it made before when Republicans were stronger on national security and what they say now. Either you care about terrorism or you don’t. Either those scary foreigners over there are our friends or they’re not. This White House has spent six long years painting issues in firm shades of black or white, and suddenly the concept of nuance has reared up and bit them on the ass.

So now here we are, in an election year, with many polls showing that the Republicans, after years of steering money, tax breaks, contracts, and influence to their lobbyist friends, plan on claiming that they are the party of “reform.” One congressman, Duke Cunningham of California, is on his way to hard time for criminal conduct, and another, Rep. Bob Ney of Ohio, appears to be neck deep in scandal from the fallout engendered by admitted felon and former lobbyist Jack Abramoff. As liberal blogger Joshua Micah Marshall points out with his “Grand Old Docket” of indicted and soon-to-be-investigated Republican cronies, the political gales blow ever harder for the president’s party, no matter how many stories get generated about how inept the Democrats are supposed to be.

Bush and company are backing up against a wall. And that, my friends, is when they’ll say nearly anything. You only have to look back two short years to find out.

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Political Animal archives

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The Fix (8/4/2010)

Police State (7/7/2010)

Funny Business (6/9/2010)

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