Sunday, March 19, 2006


Worse than Watergate 4: Terrorized by Government

Sometimes it seems that 9/11 was just made for the Bush Administration. In those summer days before, the President stuck extra close to home in Crawford, Texas, uncertain what mark to make with his newly gained powers. He'd come to office with a reputation for doing best with only one or two items on his agenda, then hammering at them again and again for maximum effect.

Then the planes hit the towers, and the Bush presidency was born. After the preliminary My Pet Goat dithering at the elementary school that we see in Fahrenheit 911, Bush eventually wound up at the site of the disasters and issued the rallying cry that, for the moment, pulled the nation together and gave the two major political parties the illusion of shared purpose.

It was nice while it lasted. Unfortunately, the politicking had already begun. The freshly created Department of Homeland Security with cabinet-level status had actually been a suggestion from the Rudman-Hart Commission, the warnings on Al Qaeda an emphasis laid down by Bill Clinton, not the neglect that the Bushies allowed us to believe. Along came the Patriot Act, the rounding up of thousands of Arab-Americans, all accepted by some pretty frightened American people. Remember the anthrax scare?

We were putty in their paws, Bush's and Cheney's. Suddenly, all the rules had changed.

At the time, I was teaching Arthur Miller's The Crucible. It was bizarre to hear echoes of the rationalizations of the Salem witch hunters on the CBS Evening News, issuing forth from members of Congress. Civil liberties too dangerous for this new time? Dump them! Rather than proving the guilt in the courts, the onus now rested upon the suspect, and everyone who wasn't standing with the President was suspect.

The Bush Administration now had pretext for its penchant for secrecy: national security. Now it was all about protecting the nation from terror, with that kaliedoscope of color to remind us that even as we attempted to go about our daily business, the government was throwing our sense of safety against a spectrum. This new "war" on terror, with the President as Commander in Chief, justified any secret the administration wanted to keep, whether for the common good, or not. Suddenly the debate on policy turned one-sided, as if only one party held the keys to our well being. We were being terrorized with the threat of terror by our own executive branch. We fell for it; Congress fell for it.

The secrecy of the administration was and is toxic, John Dean has amply shown. Among the criticisms that Dean levels against excessive secrecy are these:

--Secrecy is undemocratic. Our system is based upon formed citizens being aware of our leaders' actions and intentions, so that we can express our consent or dissent. Withholding information deprives us of the foundation of our liberty. "Democracies die behind closed doors," said an appeals judge to the administration not long ago.

--Secrecy precludes public accountability. We aren't in a position to know whether or leaders are serving the public good or a narrow political agenda.

--Secrecy alienates. It's easy to hatch a thousand conspiracy theories when we don't have the facts. Alienation leads to distrust of government, which can hinder the active involvement needed in a democracy.

--Secrecy encourages incompetence. When mistakes are easy to conceal, the people in power have no reason to exercise caution. This dynamic can lead to greater risks more sloppily executed, resulting in greater dangers to the public.

There are more. Dean published Worse than Watergate two years ago, detailing the manner in which the executive branch has withheld vital information from other branches of government for political rather than military ends. The administration continues to violate the very Constitution that it swore to defend. Unfortunately, as I write this Russ Feingold is pushing in vain for Senate censure of Bush for his role in breaking the laws on spying on citizens. His fellow Democrats are fearful of being thought of as soft on terrorism and aren't backing him up.

The imperial presidency continues unabated. To what unforeseen end?

Russ Feingold might have to wait for his rewards come election time.
So far, he's the only Democrat I might consider sending money.
Right now, the people's support should go to the Democrats whose cojones are the most Feingold's.
Yesterday, Russ was the ONLY dem that garnered any support among the speakers at the peace rally I attended. Every single speaker said the Democraps have alienated people just as badly as the Repubes.

I hate that we were so duped by this administration under the guise of terrorism. I remember sitting up all night that first night we bombed Iraq watching the tv and thinking Vietnam. But I was tired of being afraid..I was tired of hearing how we were going to get hosed by the terrorist..and I wanted it all to just stop.

That was three years ago..its all so damn draining..
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