Comeuppance is making a comeback. The CBS talk jock Don Imus got his. The World Bank President, Paul Wolfowitz’s seems to be in the works. The odds are that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’ will get his sooner rather than later. Karl Rove could be next .
We could all talk for hours about Imus (and who hasn’t?) What’s more interesting than the man’s foul-mouth, is the process by which his brand went south. It wasn’t corporate conscience that broke the Imus brand. It was people-power — first at the National Association of Black Journalists — and then as expressed by Al SharptonNational Action Network and (according to newspaper accounts,) by African American staff people at MSNBC and CBS who met with management and talked. Corporations pulled their advertising because Imus lost legitimacy — not the other way around.
Scales can tip. That’s exactly what’s happening to Paul Wolfowitz at the World Bank. I was just in Washington DC where employees of the bank were were preparing to protest publicly for their boss to be given the boot. For “Wolfie” the Bank’s annual meeting will be a very uncomfortable place.
Will Rove be next? The erased email scandal is only getting hotter And it’s hard to believe that the emails turning up from the Justice Department won’t soon cost Attorney General Gonzales his job. When Gonzales’s brand gets tainted, it’s not just the man that’s in trouble. When its Justice Department loses legitimacy the entire country’s is on the skids and that’s bound to wake people up.
Like Imus, Wolfie and Gonzales are falling foul of the trip-wire of legitimacy. It’s a real tool in the public’s arsenal, one of the few we’ve got. For years, the Bush administration’s grasp on power has seemed impenetrable. People in power have a habit of believing that tomorrow will be more or less like yesterday. Things will proceed as they have. But sometimes today is different. One day Imus woke up, and after a lifetime, his insults were no longer laughed at. People watched the women of the Scarlet Knights and got it, this stuff hurts.
Democrats don’t have the votes or the guts yet, to cut off funds or impeach. But legitimacy matters. Who has it, how it is defined. And that can be changed by us.
Laura Flanders is the author of the just-released Blue Grit: True Democrats Take Back Politics from the Politicians (The Penguin Press.) She will be speaking Tuesday April 17th at the UCLA Hammer Museum, 7.00 pm. 10899 Wilshire Blvd. Tickets are free.