AUSTIN, Texas – Looking at the wreckage of the Bush administration leaves one with the depressed query, “Now what?” The only help to the country that can come from this ugly and spectacular crackup is, in theory, things can’t get worse. This administration is so discredited it cannot talk the country into an unnecessary war with Iran as it did with Iraq. In theory, spending is so out of control it cannot cut taxes for the rich again; the fiscal irresponsibility of the Bushies is already among its lasting legacies.
As we all know, things can always get worse, and often do. I rather think it’s going to be up to the Democrats to hold the metaphoric hands of this crippled administration until it limps off stage. The Republican National Committee has a new scare tactic for the faithful: You must give to the party, or else the Democrats will spend the next two years investigating the administration (horror of horrors). Those who recall the insanely trivial investigations of the Clinton years may indeed regard this as the ultimate waste of time and money (as even Ken Starr concluded, there never was anything to Whitewater), but in fact it could be a therapeutic use of the next biennium. In fact, the offenses are not comparable.
Suppose we really did stop to investigate why and how and who is responsible for the lies, the deformed policies and the inability to govern of this administration. There is a wealth of lessons to be learned about the dangers of ideological delusion and of contempt for governance.
Trouble is, the world is not apt to hold still for two years. It seems to me pointless to impeach Bush. In the first place, the Republicans so trivialized impeachment into partisan piffle, it would look like little more than payback. In the second place, I believe Dick Cheney is seriously off the rails, apparently deeply paranoid – let’s not put him in charge. The minimum we should expect of Bush in return for dropping impeachment (or not) is that he cease breaking the law. Despite the opinions of Dick Cheney, Alberto Gonzales, David Addington, etc., the president of the United States does not have the authority to set aside the law.
(If Bush were impeached, I would use as evidence his astounding statement in March that the matter of getting American troops out of Iraq “will be decided by future presidents and future governments of Iraq.” What a contemptible statement.)
It would be easier to contemplate a two-year holding period if Bush hadn’t already wasted so much time. Of particular note in this department is “the inconvenient truth” – global warming. Wasting eight years in the face of what we already knew when Bush came in is not only insane, but also unforgivable. A recent poll showed the majority of Americans feel the war in Iraq will be the overriding issue of Bush’s presidency. I suspect future historians will fixate on his global warming record – not only doing nothing to stop it, but letting the hole get dug deeper, as well.
Barring emergency, I suspect the wisest thing Democrats can do in the next two years is to begin steadily undoing what Bush hath wrought – on tax and spending, on global warming, and on surveillance and other illegal lunges for power. George W. Bush ran in 2000 as a moderate. He did not bother to inform us at the time that he felt the government of this country needed a much stronger executive above the law. Congress has sat by passively while this administration accrued more and more power. If members of Congress think the legislative branch should be equal, it’s time for them to stir their stumps.
Am I jumping to conclusions? Can Karl Rove yet steer his party away from electoral disaster in the fall? I learned long ago never to call elections closer than six weeks out, and normally I stick to that rule. But I do not think George W. can be put together again, so Rove’s only option is go negative against the Democrats – no surprise there. At this point, they could attack Democrats on almost anything, but that would leave the large question, “Compared to what?” And, we must watch out for those voting machines.
It would be interesting to see an election in which Bush is not a factor and the whole fight is over what Tom DeLay and the K Street Project have made of the Congress. If ever a gang of corrupt jerks deserved to be held accountable, this one does.
Molly Ivins is a syndicated columnist.