The high-ranking GOP mole inside the Bush Administration didn't waste any time responding to my coded signal. He was on the West Coast, so we met off the beaten track amid the gorgeous high-desert rocks and wildflowers of Anza Borrego Park in Southern California.
"From the outside," I said as we walked on the sandy path, "it looks like chaos and desperation in the Bush White House and a confused, contradictory Republican Party in Congress, with lots of important officials under indictment or investigation."
"It's even worse on the inside," said Shallow Throat. "It's not just the wheels falling off the bus -- the whole damn engine is coming loose. There is virtually nothing, nothing, going on in the White House but the survival game -- which means getting through the November election without total defeat. Everything they do, everything they say, every move they make, is geared for its effect on limiting the damage."
"What kind of damage?" I asked.
DEMOCRATS = SUBPOENA POWER
"It could be a Democrat tsunami, taking everything in its path, or, thanks to the incompetence and timidity of your Democrat friends (pulling in their claws when they should be attacking everyday, in unison), it could mean losing only a dozen seats or so in the House and a relative handful of Senate seats. If the latter, the Republicans theoretically could still retain control, but it would be by a razor-thin margin and only in party label; there would be no Bush agenda enacted. But most of my fellow Republicans I've talked with are already anticipating losing the House, maybe by 30 seats or more, while maybe, if they're lucky, hanging on to the Senate."
"If the House goes into Democratic hands," I replied, "it would be death by a thousand cuts for Bush&Co. over the rest of their term in office. The Democrats would have control of committees and thus subpoena power and the ability to demand that witnesses testify under oath; the Dems could start an impeachment probe, criminal charges could be filed based on what's unearthed, and so forth. For all intents and purposes, the White House would be under constant siege, surrounded by political enemies and endlessly on the defensive. Sort of what your side did to Clinton in his second term."
"Yes, it would be the beginning of the end for the BushCheney crew," said Shallow Throat, "and good riddance to bad rubbish, say I. Which brings me to Karl Rove, and why he and his bunker cronies are fighting for their political lives -- and to stay out of the federal slammer. Finally, the Rovester finds himself caught up in the legal tar-baby known as Plamegate. Couldn't happen to a nicer fella. Heck of a job, Rovey.
"Rove may be a bit busy in the next several months meeting with his lawyers, preparing his case, worrying. He knows where all the bodies are buried, but don't count on him copping a plea by ratting out his boss. Libby's holding firm with regard to Cheney, and so will Rove on Bush; after all, he, like Libby, knows that if worse comes to worst, they'll be pardoned before they ever have to serve a day in prison.
REPAIRING THE "BASE" LEVEES
"And don't think Rove won't still be in charge of the midterm election campaign. He's had months to prepare himself for a Fitz indictment, so, just in case, the electoral plan is already in place and running smoothly. It's the old tried-and-true strategy: hang on to the loyalists, and peel off just enough votes elsewhere -- by whatever means necessary, and you know what machinations I'm talking about -- to eke out a victory and claim another 'mandate' for more wars and shredding of our civil liberties.
"It's called rebuilding-the-base. That's why they're nominating all those neandrathal candidates now for appeals court judgeships, why they're planning to send the National Guard to police the borders and keep out all those dark-skinned immigrants, why they're playing patty-cake with the Christian Rightwing on all those social issues, why they're frightening conservatives about what might happen if the dreaded libruls take over. (And it explains why John McCain felt compelled to go to Jerry Falwell's college and debase himself; McCain wants to be President in the worst way -- and he got his wish.) Placate the base, baby."
"On the Democratic side," I asked, "is that why Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is promising that if her party takes over the House, the Dems won't move to impeach?"
"You got it," said Shallow Throat. "She is gambling that the activist Dem base will stay with the party while she tries to drive a wedge between the Rove thugs and nervous conservatives, who are ready to desert the GOP because they can't stand what the arrogant and thoroughly inept Bush/Cheney crew have done to their party and to the country. Rove's tactic is to build up fear in the citizenry in general and by telling the conservatives in particular that the Dems will go hog-wild with their power if they regain control of Congress, and now Pelosi is trying to calm those anxieties by promising to tamp down Democratic activism.
"But by appearing to take impeachment off the table, Pelosi has removed a key bit of her party's leverage before the fight has even begun -- Clinton used to do that also, and it drove his supporters to the brink -- and risks alienating the passionate Democratic base that is finding the impeachment issue a wonderful one with which to fire up its forces.