WaPo: Let's Not Take The Rule of Law Too Far...

As noted at Media Matters, the Washington Post has a front-page "analysis" of prospective congressional investigations following Scooter Libby's conviction.  The Post's analytical conclusion?  Checks and balances are sooooo 18th Century!

Media matters does an excellent job of fixing on the prominent flaws in the Post's "analysis" in its usual way.  But I want to reflect on the underlying narrative subtext--that the Constitutional system of checks and balances is itself somewhat of a bother, that the American people really don't like all that much, and Marie Antoinette the Post's gurus understand that, even if some Democrats in Congress don't.

This subtext is, of course, precisely what's gotten former GOP uber-guru Kevin Phillips so riled up for the past 15 years or more--the anti-democratic, royalist tendencies of GOP-dominated elite culture and politics.  Let's start with the text, though, and then pull back for the wide-angle.

The article begins:

Shortly before he was inaugurated for his second term, President Bush was asked why no one was held responsible for the mistakes of the first. "We had an accountability moment," he replied, "and that's called the 2004 elections."

Two years and a stinging midterm election later, Bush is having another accountability moment, but this one isn't working out as well.

The very notion that "accountability" is something a President faces only once, for a "moment"--when running fot re-election, is, of course, just this side of outright royalism.  By leading with it, the Post frames its story in terms of Bush's minimalist view of royal presidential accountability.  (Just get you some Swiftboaters, get Daddy's friends to fix your National Guard records, and everything's gonna be jes fine!)

Of course, they lead into possible complicaitons--things maybe not turning out so fine with the Libby verdict heralding another accountability moment (hey! who ordered that?):

The conviction of former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby has coincided with a string of investigations into the mistreatment of injured soldiers and the purge of federal prosecutors, putting the operations of his administration into harsh relief.

but the whole point of the Post's front-page piece is to dismiss such ridiculous notions.

The timing may be coincidental, but the confluence of events has revived a pattern largely missing through the six years of Bush's presidency, in which high-level officials accused of wrongdoing are grilled, fired and sometimes even jailed.
Ah, yea.  The Six Good Years of the Bush Monarchy!  How heavenly they were!  Not like the terrible pattern  "in which high-level officials accused of wrongdoing are grilled, fired and sometimes even jailed." (Now, exactly which high-level Clinton officials were "grilled, fired and ... even jailed"?  Webster Hubbel, you say?  But that was for stuff he did before joining the Clinton Administration.  In which Hillary Clinton was a victim!) In fact, the practice of running the government as an ongoing criminal organization is strictly a GOP affair--Nixon, Reagan/Bush, and now Bush Jr.  And the system of checks and balances is designed precisely to protect the Republic as a whole against such depredations, as well as to protect the individual rights of citizens.

The onetime chief of staff to Vice President Cheney was well liked in the West Wing, and the notion of him going to prison dispirited the colleagues glued to televisions as the verdict was announced.
The King's retainers are dispirited.  Even coake will note restore their spirits.

Ed Rogers, a Republican lobbyist close to the Bush team. [:] ".... If you're looking at legacy, this episode gets prominently mentioned in every recap of the Bush administration, much like Iran-contra and Monica Lewinsky."
Getting a blowjob, subverting the Constitution.  It's all the same.  Again, courtier's view.

The Libby case never reached the level of those scandals, of course, but it became a proxy for many in Washington eager to re-litigate the origins of the Iraq war.
"Re-litigate"?Re-litigate?  I'm sure we'd be happy to litigate it for the first time, first.  What could possibly be more telling of the imperial mindset than to refer to any consideration of presidential accountability in terms reminiscent of double jeapordy?

All this, mind you, is before we get to the overtly partisan stuff.  This is just the "normal" subtextual background of the Beltway Versailles elite showing itself in print.  Next comes the pairing of John Kerry, issuing a sort of boiler-plate serious moral judgement statement, and Mary Matalin reading from the lie-packed Libby Legal Defense Trust (she's on the advisory committee)
Talking Points:

"This verdict brings accountability at last for official deception and the politics of smear and fear," said Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.), Bush's Democratic challenger in 2004.

While the White House publicly withheld comment, some Bush advisers expressed outrage, seeing a double standard and citing the documents-smuggling case of former Clinton national security adviser Samuel R. Berger. "Scooter didn't do anything," said former Cheney counselor Mary Matalin. "And his personal record and service are impeccable. How do you make sense of a system where a security principal admits to stuffing classified docs in his pants and says, 'I'm sorry,' and a guy who is rebutting a demonstrable partisan liar is going through this madness?"

Typically, Kerry lists to the center, since no shot-caller came within a country mile of being held accountable.  Meanwhile, Matlalin lied through her teeth, slandering Joe Wilson yet again.  Ah!  Fair and Balanced! Thy prototype is Fox!

And now, the kicker:

A senior official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the president ordered aides not to comment publicly, disputed the idea that Bush has escaped scrutiny in the past. "I don't buy the conventional wisdom that we haven't had accountability in the past," he said. "Is it different because Democrats are in charge? Of course. . . . But that's fine, that's a reality that we're prepared to deal with."
Why, sure we've had accountability!  Look at Lyndie England!

"Balance" in place of objectivity.  It just doesn't get any better than that!

Now, finally, the preliminaries over, the heart of the matter is about to be exposed:

No one has been quicker to declare the return of accountability than Democrats.... In two months, Democrats have held 81 hearings on Iraq. "This is just the beginning," said Rep. Rahm Emanuel (Ill.), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus. "What a difference a year makes."

But accountability politics can also be dangerous to the touch. Washington became consumed during the presidency of Emanuel's onetime boss, Bill Clinton, whose administration came under scrutiny of at least seven independent counsels and even more Republican congressional committees. The atmosphere was so toxic that Clinton adviser Paul Begala put an attorney on retainer before even joining the White House staff.

I know that this is very difficult for folks like the Washington Post to grasp.  So I'll make it really simple: When you investigate wrong-doing, that's accountability.  When you investigate people, that's a witch-hunt.

But, of course, things look entirely different when you're a courtier.  The ordinary people, by definition, are always involved in wrong-doing.  One just has to investigate to find out how.  And Clinton--the unrepentent son of trailer trash--was all the more necessary to investigate because of how far he had come.

And this is why the courtier class, who rule America today, look with such horror and disdain upon the rule of law--it holds the possibility that one of their own could be held accountable for wrong-doing in service to the King.  (We're really beyond the need for strike-out fonts at this point, don't you think?)

The Republican-led impeachment of Clinton for lying under oath about his affair with Lewinsky backfired politically, and Washington grew so leery that it let the independent-counsel law lapse.
Uh, no! It's only the Democrats who have ever supported the independent counsel law.  The GOP was happy to abuse it for its benefit (when have they ever not abused a law for their own benefit?) but they never wanted it in the first place, so when they controlled Congress, they didn't re-authorize it.  Why should they, particularly when they controlled the presidency as well?  Fox? Henhouse?  Who needs locks?
When Bush was elected along with a Congress controlled by the same party, a new era was ushered in.
Which Kevin Phillips aptly described as one of Restoration--akin to those wonderful reactionary periods of French and British history.

Things have changed now, the Post tells us.  But...

The risk for Democrats would be overplaying the accountability hand. Their attempts to impose limits on Bush's ability to fight the war have collapsed repeatedly and left them unable to fashion a coherent approach to the most serious issue in the country.
This is utterly incoherent, the way passages from fledgling writers I edit sometimes are.  The Democrats haven't overplayed their accountability hand re Bush in Iraq.  They have underplayed their accountability hand, because they've paid far too much attention to the likes of the Washington Post and its courtier friends.  The American people elected the Democrats precisely to impose limits on Bush's abilitiy to prolong the agony of Iraq.  And the Democrats are very much risking the chance they've been given by squandering it on meaningless gestures, which they will still be viciously attacked for, but which will have no real effect.

But, then, the Washington Post knows that, all too well.  If you absolutely hate accountability, what better way to discredit it than make it appear to be real, when in fact it is bound to fail?

Oh, of course, I know what better way--conduct a 6-year witch-hunt, and call it "accountability." How silly of me to forget!

Some Republicans suggested that the public could tire of repeated hearings such as those held this week and write them off to partisanship.

"They bring up sort of old Washington," said former Bush aide Nicolle Wallace. "The Democrats have to walk a fine line and be careful. People don't want to turn on the TV and see every story being about the obstruction of people trying to do things. . . . The people who will stand out in Washington are the ones who will look forward."

Whenever Nicolle (married-in-Greece-while-New-Orleans-flo oded) Wallace opens her mouth, it's a target-rich environment.  Equating Democrats holding Republicans accountable with Republican witch-hunting Democracts, Republican elitists doing their Marie Antoinette thing where they tell the American people what they want. Equating learning from our mistakes with obstruction.  Assuming that the obstruction of sheer lunacy is a bad thing.  And, of course, implicitly promising us that Bush won't veto Democratic bills to finally set the country back on the track to recovery from his 6-year binge.

Don't you feel all warm and fuzzy, knowing that people like Nicolle Wallace run the country, and not you?

The rule of law is for little people.

Tags: constitution, Libby, Washington Post (all tags)

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