And yet, for all this, the republic survives, albeit in critical condition. Recovery is possible, though by no means assured. For at long last, a few of our battered institutions are pushing back.
The criminal justice system to the rescue. While the federal government and the Congress have failed us, the law, in the hands of a few dedicated prosecutors, may be providing what might be the final line of defense of our democracy. The GOP House leader, Tom DeLay, while undisciplined by his Congressional colleagues, has at last been indicted in his home state of Texas. Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has nailed Scooter Libby, Dick Cheneys top deputy. Fitzgeralds work continues, and it is likely that Bushs boy genius, Karl Rove will be the next big fish to be hauled in. Meanwhile, the GOP-lobbyist sleaze coalition is unraveling as Jack Abramoff faces trial, and still more in his criminal syndicate are exposed and indicted. The scandal involves numerous GOP members of Congress quite possibly, enough to cost the Republicans one or both houses of Congress. These investigations and prosecutions, largely conducted on the state and municipal level, are beyond the reach of the Bushistas. Stay tuned: this could be very big.
The media stirs. The mainstream media are discovering, to their sorrow, that Lincoln was right: you cant fool all the people all of the time. The decline of media credibility reaches to the top of the industry: the flagship newspapers, the New York Times and the Washington Post. At the Times, Judith Millers fables of Saddams aluminum tubes and WMDs finally caught up with her, and so the Times has cut her loose. As for the Washington Post, the public is losing patience with Bob Woodwards Bush-promotion masquerading as access journalism.
The Bush/GOP lock on the corporate media is loosening as a few newspeople are beginning to act like real journalists again. Just ask Bushs Press Secretary Scott McClellan who, at long last, is finally receiving some well-deserved harassment from the White House press corps. And just this week, newspaper editorials from around the country denounced Bushs domestic spying with an intensity not seen since the Clinton administration.
The American media has a long distance to travel before it recovers its once-renowned independence and objectivity and with it the trust of the public. But at long last, it appears to be moving in the right direction.
The Congress Balks. Throughout Bushs first term and well into his second the Congress behaved more like The Supreme Soviet than an independent branch of the United States government, (with the exception of a few months of Democratic control of the Senate, following the defection of Vermonts Republican Senator Jim Jeffords). The Congress has been so accommodating to the President that Bush has never seen fit to take out his veto pen. At long last, the Congress is digging in its heels. First there was the 90-9 vote in the Senate banning the "cruel, inhuman or degrading" treatment of prisoners. Then, just last week, key provisions of the Patriot Act fell victim to the threat of a Democratic filibuster and a failure of the GOP majority to round up the necessary sixty votes to invoke cloture. The formerly iron-clad GOP party discipline has been eroded by the legal troubles of the majority leaders, Tom DeLay and Bill Frist, with presumably still more to be snared by the metastasizing Abramoff scandals. Add to that the clear evidence from the November off-year elections that the voters are fed-up and eager to retire many of the culprits.
At last, the Congress has defied the lame-duck President, and the sky has not fallen on them. Still more declarations of Congressional independence are now conceivable, and thus doable.
The Election fraud issue is finally getting attention. Despite abundant statistical, anecdotal and circumstantial evidence of fraud in the 2000, 2002 and 2004 elections, the mainstream media has placed a near-total embargo on any mention whatever of the issue of electoral integrity. Amazingly, and disgracefully, most Democratic politicians and liberal publications have joined this silence. Apparently the expectation and hope of all concerned is that the issue, if ignored, would simply go away. Well, it hasnt. A determined few independent publications and many dedicated internet web sites have kept the issue alive, as public opinion polls have disclosed that a significant minority of voters believe that their votes no longer count that the election results are simply what the Republican manufacturers and code writers of the e-voting machines want them to be.
Now, at long last, the issue of voting fraud is grabbing public and even media attention. Reports of the unreliability of Diebolds voting machines have seriously impacted the companys stock value, leading to the resignation of CEO Walden ODell and several other officers. In Florida, Diebold machines failed a hack test, wherein the results of a hypothetical election were reversed leaving no evidence that the hack had taken place. An anonymous whistleblower employee of Diebold, dubbed Dieb-Throat, has revealed that through an undisclosed back door to the machines one person strategically situated can reverse the results of an election. Finally, a report from the respected and non-partisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) confirms the critics accusation that electronic voting equipment has severe security and reliability flaws.
As public dissatisfaction with the Bush regime increases and the 2006 election approaches, the public may become every more receptive to the idea that, due to fraud in the past elections, the Bush Administration and even the Republican Congress, have no legitimate claim to power.
Fool us twice? We cant get fooled again. In April, 2004, a majority of Americans believed that Saddam Hussein was giving substantial support to al Qaeda and that Saddam had Weapons of Mass Destruction. Today, a majority believes the opposite: the established facts that Saddam had no ties with al Queda and no WMDs. Once again, Lincolns observation is confirmed: you cant fool all the people all the time. Eventually, truth catches up with the lies, after which the liar can never recover his credibility. Thus it is that Bushs approval ratings, in the 80s right after 9/11, are now in the thirties.
Experienced grifters know that even the best scams have a short life span, and thus it is prudent to grab the loot and get out of town before the suckers come to their senses. Bush, Cheney, and the rest may come to wish that they had left office at the end of the first term, as more and more of the American people are finally waking up to the realization that theyve been had. Polls that had previously reported that a majority of Americans believed Bush to be honest and resolute, now find him to be dishonest and stubborn. A July Gallup poll found that most Americans believe that the Iraq war will be lost and that Bush deliberately lied to get the US into the war. An October poll indicated that half of Americans favor Bushs impeachment, if it is determined that he lied to get the United States into the Iraq war. Another October poll by Pew Research disclosed that 70% of Americans want the next President to offer policies and programs different from those of the Bush Administration. These numbers describe a public that is fed-up and eager for a change, a public that is unlikely to re-discover in Bush and his regime any of the redeeming qualities that thought they had previously perceived.
The usual Bushevik defenses are crumbling. The Bush myth was built upon expert marketing skills and a compliant and cooperative media. Now hard facts have reduced the old slogans compassionate conservative, uniter not a divider, reformer with results to cruel ironies. The mainstream media, besmirched by its cozy accommodation with Bushism, has lost its credibility and an appreciable portion of its customers losses which some media critics suggest might be recovered with a renewal of independence and journalistic integrity. This independence and integrity becomes ever more feasible as the enfeebled Administration loses its capacity to punish and retaliate against its media critics.
Bushs claim to a 2004 election mandate is undermined by a growing public sense that his re-election may have been accomplished, once again, through fraud. This is a minority view, but there are indications that it is growing as more evidence comes to light and more media commentators and politicians are willing to speak the unspeakable.