Spring of Despair
"This is the most mishandled, artificial, self-created mess that I can remember in the years I've been active in public life. The buck has to stop somewhere, and I'm assuming it's the attorney general and his immediate team."
That thought came, not from a Democrat; it was voiced by the man who once epitomized the Republican Party. More than anyone else, Newt Gingrich paved the way for George W. Bush to assume the Oval Office. The gentleman from Georgia's Contract with America made straight the way for the GOP's 12-year domination of Washington.
Sunday's papers listed the people once close to the Bush White House who have become more strident critics of the administration than any member of the political opposition.
Among the names was Vic Gold, a fellow product of New Orleans, whom I knew when he was still a sometime vehement apologist for everything Republican. He once functioned as an attack dog for Spiro T. Agnew, the former Maryland governor whose vice-presidency was terminated by his conviction on corruption charges.
It now seems the way of American political life that the party in power insists on shooting itself, through both feet! It happened with Democrat Bill Clinton's penchant for the lures of young women. Even GOP icon Ronald Reagan lost his luster for any but the most devoted aficionado during his second term, which was characterized by petty partisanship that weakened his successor, George H. W. Bush, the present president's father.
We witnessed in this state a situation very similar. In a single term, Republican Robert Ehrlich managed to hand his party a near-mortal setback. He meant to balance the long-ruling Democrats by building a truly competitive GOP; instead, Mr. Ehrlich apparently convinced voters neither he nor his party was fit to rule, as shown by the last election.
The ex-governor's self-inflicted press wounds didn't help: Picking an unnecessary feud with Maryland's most influential paper definitely drew cheers and support from right-wing backers. Much of the state's editorial leaders, however, interpreted his banning of Baltimore Sun writers as a thinly veiled attempted intimidation.
Similarly, the current president's manipulation of electronic and print outlets to promote Iraq's invasion came back to haunt him. His administration's promise of a quick war with a "guaranteed" happy ending turned to muck, mire and copious blood, as duly reported in the daily press.
Much of the "guaranteeing," it should be noted, came from the vice president. Richard Cheney was still beating the same empty drum when he told a talk-radio host last week an alliance existed between Saddam Hussein and the outfit responsible for the 9/11 atrocities. Released the next day, new study proved, once again, al-Qaeda had very little to do with the deposed and executed dictator. They were, as commented here, at the opposite ends of Middle East extremism.
Still, Mr. Cheney preached the gospel of a link that might justify the killing of several thousand young Americans and the wounding mutilation of thousands more.
Beyond Iraq, the administration has been found guilty, in all opinion surveys, of moral corruption for the lies told the Congress and the public. Mr. Bush ignores self-serving bills, festooned with pork, in the Hill's recent Republican past; he criticizes the new Democratic majority for a "Christmas tree" measure that echoed 2006's, when the GOP firmly ruled the Capitol Hill roost.
Moreover, the president lambasted the present legislators for delay (after 57 days), while omitting their predecessors' record last year of taking twice as long (119 days) to pass a similar "emergency" package. Look it up!
It matters little that politicians, of both parties, have been found guilty of desperate grasping in the past. In my lifetime, I can recall no lame duck administration that seemed as intent on destroying chances for a possible successor from its ranks. Every day apparently brings a new revelation, such as the resignations of the attorney general's senior staff: one at a time.
Calls to impeach Mr. Bush find little sympathy here. The country does not need another burlesque fiasco, like Mr. Clinton's. Nor can we hope that the gentleman in the Oval Office will do the honorable deed and resign. Instead, Americans will be forced to endure the public spectacle of George W. Bush and his chief cronies, Mr. Cheney first and foremost, as they destroy their reputations and themselves.
There can be no glee! No joy!
This may very well be the saddest chapter in the history of the presidency since George Washington took the office's first oath more than 200 years ago. Body bags returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan emphasize Washington's tragic dilemma every single day.
The winter of our discontent has been exchanged for this spring of despair. My poor country!