(cross-posted at daily kos)
less than 200 days before judgment, the state teeters on ruin. the masses, having reiterated their anemic approval — a glum 32% — begin to gather their pitchforks and torches. brass-plated generals, once dutifully mute, parade forth in open mutiny. on the hill and in the provinces, caesar's retinue draws fewer invitations. meanwhile his beleaguered aides, having retreated to their washington stronghold, resign themselves to a carefully stacked round of russian roulette.
yet the left, despite their opponent's pathetic flailing and reeling, insists on keeping a cautious distance, seemingly unable to cast off a debilitating malaise, born of fear of a regime cornered like an wounded animal. wary of a rove free of distracting policy tasks, the left waits transfixed in dread of what sorcery might spew from the white house belfry.
e. j. dionne: here's the real meaning of the white house shake-up and the redefinition of karl rove's role in the bush presidency: the administration's one and only domestic priority in 2006 is hanging on to control of congress.
josh marshall: the key is subpoena power.
little of what's happened in the last five years would have been possible were it not for the fact that there was no political institution with subpoena power in washington not under the control of the white house. ...
the white house and the entire dc gop for that matter is just sitting on too many secrets and bad acts. the bogus investigations of the pre-war intel is just one example, if one of the most resonant and glaring. keeping control of the house and the senate is less a matter of conventional ideological and partisan politics as it is a simple matter of survival.
they have too much to cover up. they could not survive sunlight.
yes, the left has ample real reasons to harbor such dread, having impotently and angrily watched it crystallize during the last five years. bush's judicial coronation, his reichstag legislations and congress' potemkin investigations have all sparked in the loyal opposition a host of stifling fears.
fear that the bush regime in its desperation will stop at nothing to abort its impending emasculation. fear that it will steal or suspend elections. fear that it will revoke the constitution in part or in whole. fear that it will exile dissenters to fema prison camps. fear that it will stage deadly terrorist attacks, unleash virulent plagues and launch global nuclear armageddon — all in the name of retaining its slipping grasp on power.
but the left should not let even legitimate reasons cloud its ability to follow its irrational fears to their logical conclusions. while any attempt by the bush regime to realize those fears of course cannot be completely discounted, the successful fulfillment of any one of these strategeries does not resound with any ring of plausibility:
the "october surprise"
as the reasoning goes, a message from bin laden or a terror alert or attack will rally the country back into the comforting arms of big brother. but more likely, it will blow away any dangling shreds of his mantle as the "great protector", especially if an attack is both destructive enough and dramatic enough to influence the voting of millions of people. bush will not have the benefit of doubt afforded him after 9-11 as a relatively new and untested leader; worse, he'll be forced to again defend a proven record of failure. fortunately, bin laden's april message gives us (and the white house?) an opportunity to test this theory. it could even inoculate the electorate against the impact of an october message. however, pulling bin laden himself out of a hat could have a beneficial effect on his slide, similar to the effect of saddam's capture. but if all the public gets out of it is osama, with no accompanying relief from the violence, then the slide will inevitably resume.
as the reasoning goes, suspending elections and/or revoking the 22nd amendment, especially in the wake of an attack or an outbreak of disease, will legally lock the regime's stranglehold on the body politic into the forseeable future. but more likely, further attempts to subvert the law will only further inflame the masses, who have grown tired of the rationalizations, which have now become either too convoluted ("i'm not the leaker 'cause it's not a leak 'cause already i declassified what i leaked.") or too childish ("i'm the decider!").
in the face of ever-restrictive inventions of law dispensed by the justice department, progressives have missed no opportunity to equate the regime with genuinely militant fascist dictatorships [guilty as charged!] and have made no secret of their dismay at the apparent passivity of the man on the street. but are we to believe that a nation of 300 million will meekly accept the yoke of an overt dictatorship? not bloody likely. the active-duty forces would finally have a justifiable reason to openly defy the regime and a citizenry indoctrinated from the cradle in the worship of the very concept of freedom will not greet such a naked theft of birthright without the kind of resistance many will argue is obligated under the declaration of independence, the 2nd amendment and the star spangled banner. rockets red glare indeed!
however, i forsee no kent states, especially if the regime loses the military; once directly challenged on its lawlessness — a situation that has not yet been permitted by bush's congress — the regime will sensibly retreat.
as the reasoning goes, the republicans could steal the elections the old-fashioned way, and more efficiently than ever with their new-fangled machines. but more likely, any instances of significant fraud will be quickly unmasked. irregularities in each of the elections since 2000 have been followed by claims of fraud, but all kinds of fraud has dogged elections since the birth of the republic. however, dismissing such claims becomes much harder as the gap between the projected and actual results widens. election tampering that might survive a challenge over a 2% margin between candidates, as in 2004, would be impossible to explain over today's 10% margin. and a washington post - abc news poll puts the margin at 15% — reporting that 55% plan to vote democratic and only 40% republican — representing more than 18 million votes if the turnout matches 2004. moving this many ballots would require chicanery of truly herculean proportions.
imagine the scandal: systematic nationwide election tampering and vote supression favoring republicans in all instances. now imagine the reaction: not quiet acquiescence but seething outrage and chaos dwarfing that following the 2000 races. "republican culture of corruption" would emerge as the central recount (revote?) meme and republicans would lose even more the second time around.
war with iran
as the reasoning goes, military action against iran will serve to invigorate bush's grumbling base, which has been steadily suckled on the same twin teats of propaganda and hate that nourished them for the iraq invasion. but more likely, conventional action will only provide a reenactment of the deathtrap in iraq and the vastly more dire repercussions of nuclear action will quickly rebound out of anyone's control. in both cases, the longed-for instant telegenic panacea of righteous blitzkrieg will turn into the bitter wormwood of yet one more unholy quagmire. without a draft, for which no meaningful support exists, ground operations remain the stuff of chickenhawk wetdreams. convention air operations are at best a blunt club. nuclear weapons do not carry any guarantee of success but do carry the price of worldwide opprobrium; america would be branded an international criminal and any lingering vestige of moral authority would be swept offstage by a tall bright column of ash. even if the regime exhibits no interest in courting the admiration of the international community, the majority of the nation does care about its image in the world mirror.
and unlike iraq, iran boasts the capability of striking back at its attacker, both with and without warning. its long shadow across the straits of hormuz and its purported international network of sleeper cells have been thoroughly dissected in other publications, so suffice it here to say that most americans would prefer that iran's boasts remain untested.
it is already apparent to any member of the "reality-based" community that none of these gambits has any chance of success. but many still fear an attempt to implement them, convinced that the injured animal under the brush is both pained and crazed enough to risk a suicide bid. as loathsome as i find this regime, i remain unconvinced that they are possessed by some evangelical messianism or are otherwise insane. none of their actions cannot be explained by basic greed and cynicism and sheer venality. besides, in the end, as they walk out the door, to continue their larcenies in the private sector, they can simply sue to grant themselves pardons.
but it is far too late for this regime to save 2006 and 2008. bush's ratings have already dropped into the range of the worst presidents and the poisonous drip-drip-drip of scandal betrays no sign of abating. as long as the white house insists on treating its problems as a matter of perception, they will continue their pointless pantomine of leadership and never adopt the substantive remedies that might regain the public's trust. thus the drip-drip-drip will torment them to the bitter end.
josh bolten's new five-point "recovery plan" for the white house:
- deploy guns and badges: harass illegals
- make wall street happy: more tax cuts!
- brag more: more speeches!
- reclaim security credibility: harass iran
- court the press: rehire armstrong williams
what has wounded the regime the most is the exposure of its fundamental ineptitude. the king is naked and his reign is littered with tattered policies, discarded initiatives and, most odious of all, wasted sacrifices. if bush could do just one thing right he might win back some support, but that's the catch when it comes to incompetency. even if any of the desperate strategeries discussed had more than a snowball's chance of success, chances are more than certain this regime would blow it and blow it big. but today there aren't enough kool-aid drinkers left standing and the rest of the electorate is wary and suspicious but most of all very pissed.
unfortunately that anger extends to the other side of the aisle; progressives have grown weary of their leadership's aversion to confronting a political risk that diminishes with each day. against demonstrably corrupt opponents there is no danger in taking the high ground. while the pols have exhibited some ability to push back from behind the scenes, clearly the necessary tonic for the anxieties of their constituents is some grandstanding and good old-fashioned theater, at least until they regain some subpoena power. no one ever believes you have a spine when you refuse to exhibit it. the republicans know this too well.
booman tribune: if only we could trust the democrats to know how to take of advantage of the gop's obvious disarray. after all, we saw similar concerns back in the spring of 2004 with the torture scandal, yet come november somehow the evil empire pulled out another elctoral victory by hook or by crook.
i'd like to believe this time will be different.
distrust of the democratic leadership only compounds the fear that the regime will escape unpunished for its sins. more medals than paddles have been dished out to its cronies. fatigued at seeing one unpunished crime follow another, the disenchanted become easily seduced by the fear that the theft of november is not beyond the republicans' reach. admittedly, to resist the fear and the fatigue, one must indulge in a little hope that the agents of justice will eventually catch up with the regime. i believe that the mechanisms of our legal system, the brazenness and incompetence of the criminals and the growing revulsion of the masses do warrant it. the only thing we really have to fear is that we stop trying.