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July 20, 2005

Death to the Republic? – Part Two

Roy Meachum

On June 17, 1972, when the bungled Watergate burglary unmasked their ambitions, the gang that ran the Committee to Re-Elect the President already knew their man had little to fear from Democrat George McGovern, his challenger.

Put in its most positive light: their provocative and unnecessary act meant primarily to provide assurance that Republicans might never be locked out as they were when Franklin D. Roosevelt occupied the White House, from 1933-45. (Harry S. Truman’s 1948 victory came about chiefly because of infighting within the fatuously overconfident GOP.)

The Watergate scandal played a major part in the ascension of Georgia Gov. Jimmy Carter, the most unlikely figure certainly since “Silent” Calvin Coolidge to accept the musical salute “Hail to the Chief.” The Reagan terms that followed were chiefly characterized by economic moves that favored Nixon-era plotters’ cause. “Trickle down” increased enormously the financial supremacy of the autocratic few over the masses.

In my view, George H. W. Bush’s personal integrity prevented the plot’s further expansion during his single term. But coming off Ronald Reagan’s enormous popularity, especially throughout the South, the first Bush presidency witnessed the final collapse of the Democratic coalition that had retained Capitol Hill domination, with a single short-lived interruption, since FDR.

GOP fury at losing the Oval Office to Arkansas’s Bill Clinton was quickly assuaged when Georgia Republican Newt Gingrich led the most famous charge since fellow Republican Teddy Roosevelt went up St. Juan Hill during the Spanish American war.

When the 1994 off-year election results roared in, the GOP “owned” the United States Congress, which created the first bi-partisan sharing of power since a brief Eisenhower spell. To Democratic dismay, Republicans have kept the House ever since and lost the Senate, to a tie, only momentarily when a formerly independent member decided to turn his back on the GOP.

Their 2000 hairbreadth’s escape from four more years locked out of the White House brought the determination that fueled the most recent presidential campaign, which provoked bitter anger and tactics that ranked with those of the 19th century at their worst. (I have in mind rumors that accused 1884 Democratic nominee Grover Cleveland of fathering a bastard child and noisy charges by his chief Republican opponent, James Blaine, that Irish Americans were people of “Rum, Romanism and Rebellion.” Blaine apologized but too late to do his presidential hopes any good.)

Completely unprepared for his opponents’ slash-and-burn early approach, Democrat John Kerr – for all intents and purposes – lost the 2004 race in the spring. His candidacy never recovered from innuendo and allegations that perverted his genuine record of honorable combat service. The press helped in no small way.

Examining their Watergate failures, the heirs of the old CREEP gang understood their future success depended entirely on getting the media in hand. There must be no more New York Times’ Pentagon Papers revelations and absolutely no one could be allowed to repeat the example presented by The Washington Post.

They set about destroying the credibility of the nation’s newspapers and mainstream television networks primarily by bringing into play a new battery of right-wing media, spearheaded by Rupert Murdoch’s Fox companies. Radio staples like Rush Limbaugh suffered, for their purposes, from being so identifiably partisan. Moreover, they overwhelmingly “preached to the choir,” drawing audiences already committed to their cause.

The new TV newscasts employ fresh faces, including very attractive women’s. Their newness makes them more believable, to pound the liberal bias they claim exists on established organizations, like CNN. I know better. For years the cable network’s news operations were run by Ed Turner (no relation to owner Ted), an Oklahoma native who, in his private life, boosted angry “conservative” politicians like Pat Buchanan. From his reporters, Ed commanded balance: I worked for him twice.

How well the CREEP heirs succeeded was firmly established in the Iraq war run-up, when The New York Times and The Washington Post endorsed the invasion, buttressing confidence in the rationalized justifications that proved spurious. The papers’ subsequent attempts to recant wreaked further havoc on the general public’s faith in the general media.

The flap that sent Times’ reporter Judith Miller to jail for upholding the journalistic principle of shielding sources also saw the nation’s oldest news magazine cave in and fail to back its reporter. In the latest development, the magazine’s writers have berated their superiors because they now deal with contacts unwilling to trust them. And so it goes.

The chief hope for saving the republic lies in the same arrogant ignorance that wrecked Watergate. The CREEP gang both could not belief outsiders might grasp what they were about and rejected as preposterous the possibility that they might be punished if caught. After all, they had the government’s powerful intelligence and law enforcement agencies in their pocket. They failed to account for Burke’s “few good men” who refused to remain silent.

The ignorance behind the current arrogance seemed epitomized when Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld couldn’t even get right the name of international terrorism’s chief progenitor, at least in America’s eyes. Mr. Rumsfeld should at least learn how to say “bin Laden,” if he wants the rest of the world to have confidence in America’s leadership.

Dealing with another lame-duck crew that has trouble shooting straight does not mean passing of the danger to the republic. Count on a future move by a new gang that will incorporate today’s lessons into their schemes.

In any event, as demonstrated in the early examples, of Federalist John Adams and Democratic-Republican Andrew Jackson, these efforts to undermine the Constitution and remove the public voice from government have little to do with political ideology. They are all about personal greed for power.

Given the general apathy and media’s self absorbance, the passing of America’s peculiar form of democracy is as certain as the summer’s heat. Put another way: the watchdogs all submissively continue to bite themselves while the public yawns.

In this political ambiance and with most of the foundation firmly in place, plotters now obviously need only a charismatic leader, another Julius Caesar but one who looks and talks like Ronald Reagan. He may very well be lurking in the wings.

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