In another month, we'll be fully into the actual 2008 election season, and the ensuing horse-race frenzy will drown out much of the mechanism of government, despite so many questions remaining unanswered.
Sadly, many of the things we need to know and would like to know about how our government has operated over the last seven years will remain unanswered--some of it due to the reticence or general unwillingness on the part of congressional Democrats to use all means possible to get answers from an obstinate Bush administration.
Although much credit should be given to California Rep. Henry Waxman and his probes into Bush administration malfeasances, the simple fact is that without using every tool available to try and bring accountability, the president will slam shut every door possible on his way out in 2009. When Republicans ran Congress, Rep. Dan Burton of Indiana buried the Clinton administration with literally thousands of subpoenas, all of which the administration duly responded to. The Bush administration has no qualms whatsoever about blatantly ignoring subpoenas--Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has been ignoring one regarding what she knew about claims of Iraqi WMDs since Waxman's committee issued it back in April. In addition, she is under order by a judge to comply with a subpoena that requires her to testify in a case regarding two lobbyists for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the pro-Israel lobby, in a case revolving around possible violations of the Espionage Act.
In the center of all of this now stands newly sworn-in Attorney General Michael Mukasey, who, right off the bat, will have to decide whether his loyalties lie with the president or the law. His predecessor, Alberto Gonzales, has already lawyered up, as he may have to deal with criminal charges over his lack of independence from the White House. Now Mukasey is under pressure to toss out the AIPAC case that would put Rice on the stand, and if either the House or Senate authorize contempt of court proceedings against any number of administration officials, it is Mukasey's Justice Department that will be the enforcement mechanism.
This past week's revelation in The New York Times about the destruction of CIA interrogation videotapes is just one more giant yule log on the fire consuming the administration's credibility. So far the questions are being confined to the CIA, but given Vice President Dick Cheney's longstanding interest in the activities of the agency, especially when it comes to information regarding Iraq, al-Qaida, and the prisoners in Guantanamo, it wouldn't be too surprising to see a chain of information leading back to his office.
Calls are already beginning to be heard about appointing a special counsel to investigate the CIA over the destruction of the tapes, and if Mukasey resists them, he will once again be subject to claims that the Bush administration named someone who would rather serve the president than the greater good. But it's very clear that George W. Bush intends to run out the string on every possible inquiry into his presidency, knowing that if the cases go to court, he'll be long gone by the time a decision is handed down.
We still don't know what happened to all the subpoenaed e-mails run through the servers at the Republican National Committee. We don't know where the plan to fire the eight U.S. attorneys came from, aside from somewhere in the Bush White House. We don't know the extent of contacts in the White House made by convicted felon Jack Abramoff.
We never found out what was in the notes the White House refused to turn over to the 9-11 Commission in 2004. We never found out the extent of the politicization of the White House drug-policy office during the '04 election campaign season. We never found out who in the administration was responsible for ejecting citizens at Bush campaign events on public property by pretending to be Secret Service agents.
And then there's the long list of reports and redactions by the administration over information that didn't suit its policy objectives. They canceled a report by the Treasury in 2003 that would have showed future budget deficits because it would have taken the wind out of the push for more tax cuts. That same year the administration killed the report that tells the states specifically what money each state gets under what specific federal program, the "Budget Information for States" report. The Bureau of Labor Statistics stopped publishing information about factory closings in the Mass Layoffs Statistics Report, and the Department of State stopped publishing a report on international terrorism, which would make it harder to contest their claims on the "Global War on Terror."
Come 2009, we may find out all sorts of things about what our government has been up to for the past seven years. But by that time, all the actors in the process will be gone, and the only thing left will be excuses. H
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