Restoring Democracy; The Progressive Agenda

Apr 22 2009 Published by under Featured News

Bush’s Politicized DoJ; A Department of Justice which served the Executive Branch instead of the constitution created the perfect environment for the torture memos.

Jonathan Landay reported today:

“The Bush administration applied relentless pressure on interrogators to use harsh methods on detainees in part to find evidence of cooperation between al Qaida and the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s regime, according to a former senior U.S. intelligence official and a former Army psychiatrist.

Such information would’ve provided a foundation for one of former President George W. Bush’s main arguments for invading Iraq in 2003. In fact, no evidence has ever been found of operational ties between Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network and Saddam’s regime.”

http://www.mcclatchydc.com/227/story/66622.html

The Bush administration used the DoJ in a desperate attempt to justify Bush’s personal agenda and horrifically rash decisions. In fact, Bush went hunting for the connection between al Qaida and Hussein AFTER the invasion and used the DoJ to rewrite the interpretation of torture in order to assist intelligence officials on their mission to satisfy the Executive Branch’s post-invasion agenda.

Of course, no such evidence was ever found and the rationale for invading the sovereign nation of Iraq is still a mystery, teetering precariously on the Bush lie of “Weapons of Mass Destruction”. A lie which many on the right still believe, courtesy of Fox News, and one which our main stream media fed us without question in the days leading up to the invasion, as well as for years afterward.

What this reveals about the Bush Administration and its impact on democracy is even more horrifying. We used to have 3 arms of government, which operated separately but together formed the checks and balances this country was founded on. Bush decimated our three arms of government, via his politicization of the Justice Department. For years, I’ve been railing on about his politicizing of the DoJ and how when it came out, Bush would be proven to be a much more corrupting influence on our country than Nixon. I now fear this is just the tip of the iceberg.

We may never get the DoJ back in our lifetime, due to the Bush administration illegally stocking the DoJ with careerist conservative fundies, according to Inspector Fine’s investigation of the Bush DoJ’s hiring practices. But at least we have a solid appointment in Holder and others. This last election was the tipping point; one more round of corrupt, authoritarian rule by the GOP and this country’s democracy would have been gone forever.

An authoritarian government (and remember, lawyers referred to the DoJ memos released several weeks ago as indicating that we were living under an authoritarian regime) consists of the following principles: “1) rule of men, not rule of law; 2) rigged elections; 3) all important political decisions made by unelected officials behind closed doors; 4) a bureaucracy operated quite independently of rules, the supervision of elected officials, or concerns of the constituencies they purportedly serve; 5) the informal and unregulated exercise of political power.”*

The torture memos suggest that we have become just such a nation. Certainly, we were operating under the Rule of Man, rather than Law.

I’m beginning to think the Terror Alert levels the Bush Administration implemented with such glee (I’ve never seen a Republican happier than when they are fear-mongering) were actually their subconscious efforts to alert to us: The Terror is Here, at Home, in the Oval Office. Take Notice.

The effects of the DoJ’s politicization on Congress are still not being explored or explained, but congress was basically impotent due to the DoJ takeover by the Bush admin. It seemed that the main power congress had in the past 8 years was to do Bush’s bidding. You can see evidence of this in their inability to get Rove to testify, but that’s just one manifestation of congress’s reduced power under the Bush administration.

What distresses me is how easily the left will believe the worst in their elected officials, while failing to dig deeper to see if there is a root cause. Yes, our elected officials are far from perfect and many of them could be replaced with better people. But unless we want to repeat the last 28 years, we’d better start grasping just what was going on the last 8 years and who was responsible.

It seems that people still want to believe the Congress had power, that things weren’t as bad as they were. While I can’t blame anyone for holding on to that illusion, I do hope that as more and more is exposed regarding the Bush administration’s rampant abuse of power and corruption of democracy, we can stay focused on regaining power long enough to correct these things. And that will mean, among other things, using the power available to us now, in the form of our Democratic representatives.

There is a fine line between the strength of the left’s questioning of their officials (a good thing) and destabilizing reactionary anger (a bad thing). A recent example of this is the left railing at President Obama to prosecute the Bush administration and others for torture.

Do I want prosecutions? You better believe it. But more importantly, I want the rule of law returned to this country. The AG is supposed to determine, based on the evidence, whether or not to prosecute. Holder has a reputation as someone whose allegiance is to the constitution, not political party and certainly not the President. This is as it should be. I don’t want Obama pulling a Bush and telling the DoJ what would please him, and I certainly don’t want Obama directing the DoJ to rewrite the laws to suit his agenda, as Bush did.

Urging Obama to prosecute is tantamount to asking him to Bushify the Executive Office. We don’t like the result of it as it pertains to the torture memos, so we shouldn’t assume it’s OK if Obama were to do it. We should direct our desire for prosecution to Holder and even House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, who recently renewed his call for a special prosecutor to conduct a criminal inquiry, and we should urge them to adhere to the rules of law, not our desire for prosecutions. It’s a fine distinction, but an important one.

I have confidence in Holder’s willingness to prosecute if the evidence is there. The Republicans tried to base their confirmation of Holder upon exacting a promise from Holder that he would NOT prosecute the Bush administration. Of course, we all knew then that we hadn’t heard even a small percentage of the potential crimes they had committed. But Holder refused to back down. In fact, he told the Republicans that the law would dictate whether or not there were prosecutions.

He proved his adherence to the law with his decision to overturn Ted Stevens’ conviction. Because while it appears that Stevens may indeed be guilty of the crimes he was originally convicted of, the prosecutorial process was flawed. Holder recognized that and did the right thing. A non-partisan allegiance to our laws is exactly what we want in our AG.

If we’re smart, we’ll learn from the failure of the right. Their biggest shortcoming is their unquestioning belief in their elected officials. Ours is the opposite; we have no faith in our elected officials. We’re a suspicious group, who question everything. A fine quality, but one that can easily morph into frenzied disorganization and a petulant unwillingness to think strategically.

Aren’t we clever enough to learn from the right’s mistakes; i.e., to not be our own worst enemies? I hope so, because it seems the fate of our country rests upon our shoulders. If we don’t restore the rule of law and reason – if we can’t stay in power long enough to achieve this– our country will slide back into the hands of the authoritarian dictatorship style of the right.

After all the challenges we went through to get here; fighting the corrupt election process, with Diebold and the DoJ backing the GOP’s election corruption, you’d think we’d remember that we BARELY made it. What was at stake and is still at stake was never about political parties, but about democracy.

It just so happens this time around that the far right became a monster bent on ruining democracy to enrich their corporate interests. Perhaps one day Democrats will be the party of too much power (given the credo “absolute power corrupts absolutely”), but right now, the fact of the matter is that the GOP is a authoritarian party bent on total control and fake elections. I’d elect anyone who didn’t have that as an agenda in order to counter it.

As we question Obama and his administration, it’s important to stay focused on our values and goals as progressives and never forget what is at stake. Obama’s ability to rise above the all too familiar Democratic failures of poor strategy and undisciplined messaging paved his way to the White House, where he can now implement policies which reflect the principles of a true progressive and restore democracy to our gravely injured government. If we stay true to our principles and resist the urge to become that which we hate, as well as the inevitable pitfalls of progressives, we stand a decent chance of seeing justice and law restored to America.

* Vestal, Theodore M. Ethiopia: A Post-Cold War African State

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