With Tom DeLay about to head to trial, Duke Cunningham in prison and Karl
Rove looking at a likely criminal indictment, I needed to talk to "Shallow
Throat" about the deepening implosion of the Republican machine and how
progressives and Democrats should react in the run-up to the November
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
"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
"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 BROKEN "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
Neanderthal 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.
"YOU DEMOCRATS NEVER LEARN"
"Here the Dems have the first good shot in six years to do some real
damage to the Bush&Co. machine, to start to build real momentum for
wholesale change, and Pelosi is playing old-style, namby-pamby politics.
There are a lot of Dems who will sit on their hands in November if
Pelosi's type of Democratic action is what's representing the party. At
the least, she should give herself some wiggle room, say something like
impeachment is not in the cards 'unless more evidence of presidential
malfeasance emerges,' or something like that."
"Maybe," I replied, "Pelosi is angling for 2008. Everybody else wants to
be on that ticket, so why not her, as a V.P. choice? If so, she figures
she's got to move toward the center for November."
"You Democrats never learn," said Shallow Throat. "Your party is seriously
considering Hillary Clinton as your 2008 nominee! (Or maybe it's Rove&Co.
trying to pre-select Hillary as the candidate they'd most like to run
against.) Not only is she a craven piece of walking ambition, who will
trim her sails to the prevailing winds, selling out the base of the party
with nary a qualm, but she also starts out with the most astonishingly
high and passionate negatives -- a third of the voters won't even consider
her. That's quite a handicap to take into a potentially tight race. There
are plenty of solid, reasonable, electable candidates to choose from.
WHICH GEORGE IS RUNNING THE COUNTRY?
"The country has changed considerably since Hillary and Bill were in the
White House. The polarization of politics is even more pronounced. Bush
has used and abused the Constitution in setting himself up as an old-style
monarch -- he's more King George III than President George the W -- who
wants all power in his hands. It's like 'I can do whatever I want whenever
I want and you can't do a bloody thing about it' -- that's what America's
once-admired democratic republic has come to these days, hostage to a
poseur with a self-esteem problem.
"The U.S. already is involved in two wars, and now Bush wants to add
another one, in Iran -- possibly using nuclear weapons! The economy, and
future generations, are burdened by humongous deficits to finance Bush's
wars and tax-cuts-for-the-wealthy. Our air and water are becoming more
unhealthy as the industrial polluters effectively write the legislation
regulating discharges. The courts are becoming dangerously politicized and
unbalanced. The Congress, already a rubber-stamp, is ignored by the
Administration. The conglomerate-owned mass-media are beholden to the
powers that be and rarely do their journalistic jobs. The Administration
is like a take-the-money-and-run crowd, with corruption everywhere you
look. Iraq is even more of a disaster than anyone thought was possible.
The entire electoral process is corrupted and infinitely corruptible, to
the point where millions believe their votes are not counted honestly or
accurately, especially since one party's supporters control the
"So," I asked, "do you think it's still possible, or desirable, for the
Democrats to take over the House in November? And how do they deal with
the likelihood of vote-theft and electoral chicanery?"
"Desirable? Yes, for sure. Despite what I think of most Democrats, the
alternative is too horrible to contemplate: Two-and-a-half more years of
BushCheney wars, billions and billions wasted, reckless bungling,
authoritarian mayhem, the Constitution further shredded. Sure, both
parties tend to serve the same corporate masters, but the differences
between them are significant indeed when talking about war and peace and
respect for the Constitutional guarantees of due process of law.
"In short, the citizens -- on the left, in the middle, on the right -- are
angry, frustrated, crying out for a wholesale electoral house-cleaning.
And yet your Democrat friends still remain essentially clueless as to the
necessity to fight and fight hard -- in short, to become a true party of
the opposition. One that will take serious action to challenge the
corrupted voting system in this country, for example. So far, not much
concerted noise is being made in that regard, though the issue finally is
making its way into the mainstream media, and some lawsuits are pending.
The bottom line is that we may be a bit late in many states to
meaningfully influence voting reform for the November balloting -- still,
we have to pull out all the legal stops to do so -- but it's possible to
get this issue debated and settled correctly before the 2008 vote for
"In short, the 2006 election could be stolen yet again -- unless we work
our behinds off between now and November to make sure there is such a huge
groundswell of anti-Bush voting, and demands for transparency in the
vote-tabulation process, that the Republicans wouldn't dare fiddle with
the results. But even there I wouldn't put it past them to try anyway;
they're that desperate.
"BushCheney are destroying checks-and-balances, the separation of power,
the independent Judiciary, the Congress as the true law-making body. Bush
claims the right to torture, to break the law, to spy on millions of his
own citizens, to lie the country into war -- wake up and smell the coffee,
guys! It's time to gear it up and give those guys fits. Enough is enough.
They're not walking over us anymore.
"Given how Bush has botched and alienated nearly everyone in the country
and the world, the 2008 election could well be taken by a populist-type
Democrat, who promises change, honesty, moderation, a return to competent
rule, and unwavering respect for the Constitution.
"For these reasons, and no other, I, a born and bred Republican, will
support the Democrat Party in November of 2006. Or else risk getting Jeb
Copyright 2006, by Bernard Weiner
Bernard Weiner, Ph.D. in government & international
relations, has taught at various universities, worked as a writer/editor
for the San Francisco Chronicle, and currently co-edits The Crisis Papers
(www.crisispapers.org). For comments: