Wednesday, December 21, 2005


We're living in Futurama, ruled by the head of Richard Nixon carried around in a bell jar by Dick Cheney and Karl Rove.

Sort least that's what I've decided after reading Digby, seconded by Sifu Tweety at the Poor Man's place.

First, let me make one thing perfectly clear...

If President Bush wanted to use the NSA to spy on American citizens here on American soil, he could easily have asked for permission and almost certainly would have received it from the court with the power to give it. As Josh Marshall reports, that court is not in the habit of saying no.

And it was the not asking that was Bush's crime---yes, crime. Break the law, you've committed a crime. Bush committed a crime. Ezra Klein explains, his patience fraying a bit with each reiteration, the law, the procedure Bush should have followed, and why what Bush did was wrong, here, here, and here.

So the question is, why didn't Bush obey the law? It wasn't even as though he was acting in the heat of the moment in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 and even if it had been the court and the process were designed for speed. All that was needed was a little bit of paperwork that could have been handled by a junior lawyer in the Attorney General's office who probably would have had to do nothing more than fill out a form and walk it over to the right judge's clerk.

Ezra thinks Bush's speech the other day in which defended his crime was Bush's great Fuck You moment.

Since telling anyone who disagrees with him, criticizes him, or advises him even with the most obsequious deference to do what he doesn't want to do or not do what he does want to do to fuck off has been Bush's first and often single reflex, it's plausible to read back from the speech to the order itself and hear Bush, as he sets loose the spooks, saying "Fuck you" to any aide who suggested that he ask the judges for permission first.

But Digby and Sifu Tweety hear the first fuck you, the primal fuck you as being said not by Bush himself, or even by Dick Cheney, who we know is good at saying it. The first fuck you was uttered with a shifty look out from under hooded brows and with a tremendous shake of shadowed jowls by Tricky Dick himself, only it sounded like this:

"When the President does it, that means it's not illegal."

W's Presidency is Dick Nixon's Revenge.

Nixon lives on in the Bush White House, his head preserved by former minions and henchman and current acolytes, chief among them Dick Cheney, who tells Bush all he needs to know about the law.


[L]ike Nixon, [Bush] believes that the president has only one "accountability moment" while he is president. His re-election. Beyond that, he has been given a blank check. And that includes breaking the law since if the president does it, it's not illegal, the president being the executive branch which is not subject to any other branch of govenrment.

Sifu Tweety:

The way they see it [they being the Nixon loyalists, Cheney, Rove, "essentially the whole fat lot of them who were alive at the time"], everything in American political history, from that unjustified prosecution [of Watergate] right up until 9/11, was a species of mistake. And in the days after the attacks, as a new reality settled around us, they realized that this was their grand political reset button. The political winds, to their minds, finally shifted back to their natural course.

So this NSA scandal, this return to the domestic spying of the Nixon years, is part and parcel of their recreation - amplification - of those halcyon days. They don’t fight for the right to torture because they have a hard-on for torture. They fight for torture because the right is, in our Attorney General’s immortal words, “inherent in the office of the President.” They don’t eschew negotiation, cross-aisle communication, or compromise because they are shrewd political operatives angling to hype up the base. To them, any concession to Congressional prerogatives is showing weakness to an equal, a rival. This is why they hold open votes, threaten nuclear options. What do they care for the traditions and precedents of the Congress? They are The Presidency. They don’t fight “activist judges” because of some kind of constructionist ideology, or even, for that matter, because they crave specific rulings. They fight for ready-to-knuckle-under simps like Scalito because, to them, the three branches of government no more act in concert than do three squabbling candidates in the heat of primary season, or three College Republicans fighting for the same assistant treasurership. They have their horse in this campaign, the presidency, and to win, in this case, means to win absolutely, to take the reins of power singly. Sharing the work of governing is abdication, defeat. You can see this attitude in WPE’s dismissive public comments. In winning the election his office became our nominee for the next phase of the campaign. We backed his horse. Now we need to shut up, stay outside the sausage factory, and let them do what they do best.

Some day, when they are all dead and presenting themselves at the gates of heaven, the current crop of the Washington Media Elite will stand before a tribunal of judges including the shades of I.F. Stone, Edward R. Murrow, and Jack Anderson. The judges will look down from their thirty foot high bench built out of the leather bound transcripts of the Nixon tapes, the Iran-Contra hearings, and Ken Starr's final report on Monica, and they will ask David Broder, speaking for the rest of his clubmates, "Tell us, please, explain to us, we beg you, how when George W. Bush first declared for President in 1999, you all looked at the collection of former Nixon henchmen and bagmen, Iran-Contra traitors and thugs rallying to his side, a gang brought together by everything that was vile in American politics going back 30 years, and you turned to the rest of the country and said, 'Fear not this seeming moron, George W. Bush, because he is a man of the people, a regular guy, who just wants to bring honor and dignity back to the White House, and if you doubt our word, why, behold, look at this troop of distinguished statesmen lined up to advise him and help him steer our battered ship of state to safe harbor!'"

And Dean Broder will plead for mercy, saying, "But they gave us access! He bestowed upon us nicknames!"

The judges will put their heads together for three seconds and then speak us one.

"You go to hell!"

Sifu Tweety also links to this fine post by hilzoy of Obsidian Wings.

Pepper is compiling a playlist of songs to be spied upon by. She's looking for suggestions.

And the post below this is by my friend Steve Kuusisto, poet, essayist, and sometime commentator on All Things Considered.


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