Friday, June 20, 2008

McClellan, Bush and Memories of Watergate

by Norman Markowitz

Although I doubt it will get the coverage it deserves. Scott McClellan, the defecting former Bush press Secretary, has just testified to the House Judiciary Committee about Bush administration actions which are in my opinion clear impeachable offenses. McClellan, echoing in his own way John McCain,who was vilified by the Nixon White House when he refused to fall on his sword for them and turned states evidence in the Watergate conspiracy, told the committee that he had written his book because "ideals of candor, transparency and integrity" outweigh loyalty to an individual office holder."

In a truly bizarre turn of phrase, Texas Republican CongressmanLamarr Smith, who did everything that he could to impeach McClellan's testimony, then said that McClellan "will have to wrestle with whether it was worth selling out the president and his friends for a few pieces of silver." (I doubt that even Bush's fundamentalist supporters would have the nerve to compare him and his "ministry" with the man who in the biblical narrative was betrayed for 30 pieces of silver).

McClellan told the committee how he had been manipulated to lie to the press for the administration on what was a crude and petty attempt by key White House figures to get back at former ambassador Joseph Wilson, a critic of their Iraq war policy, by leaking information to a very friendly journalist source that would blow the cover of his wife, Valerie Plame, a CIA operative (in the 1970s, Congress enacted legislation with harsh penalties for such actions, since they endangered the lives of individuals).

Where does Watergate come in? Nixon promised those who were arrested presidential pardons and jobs if they kept their mouths shut. It didn't work. In this case, Scooter Libby was the sacrificial lamb( the "d'oeuvre" as Nixon said about one of his prospective scapegoats, "so they won't come back for more"). The political climate in the country and Democratic party opposition made sure that that Nixon's cover-up eventually didn't work and the whole administration eventually came down.

In this case, it so far has worked. Libby was tried, convicted, and got presidential clemency very quickly (he is independently wealthy and doesn't need a job). Rove, Cheney, et al, are not on their way to trial (at least not in this administration). At this point, the whole sordid affair is another defeat for American democracy at the hands of its enemies in the White House.

Although the first priority now is to defeat McCain and the Republican right across the board, it might be good for the Obama administration if and when it takes power to revisit this whole affair and appoint a special prosecutor. The Republican Congress in effect forced Clinton to do that in the Whitewater Savings and Loan Scandal, which had nothing to do with his presidency. These acts, like the Watergate conspiracy itself, were an example of the abuse of power and outright tyranny from which that the Constitution was supposed to protect the people.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

oops. I of course meant John Dean, not John McCain. Actually, John Dean over the years has moved in a progressive direction while John McCain, who was vilified by Bush and Rove when he ran for the GOP nomination in 2000, has moved further to the right and is now both identifying with and imitating his former vilifiers.
Norman Markowitz