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Hubris in High Places | The Nation

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The Notion

Unfiltered takes on politics, ideas and culture from Nation editors and contributors.

Hubris in High Places

The scandal action in Washington is intense, almost too much to properly savor.

That squirrely little right-winger at the Justice Department who was arranging a mass execution for US attorneys is compelled to resign. Now people want his boss, the precious-speaking Attorney General, to resign too.

The Army doctors who looked the other way as health care for wounded soldiers deteriorated have resigned. Then the Marine general who is chairman of the Joint Chiefs comes along and gratuitously attacks homosexuals. Maybe he should the join the list.

All this upset takes us back to a more settled time when George W. Bush could walk on water. If he stepped into manure, as he frequently did, nobody would make much fuss. He was Bush-Rove, after all, and invincible. The Republican party thought it was going to be the Thousand Year Majority. Dems grieved over their impotence and sulked at the brilliance of their opposition.

This seems like ancient history now that the Bush regime is in free fall, but it was actually just two years ago. GWB had just won his re-election and had indeed accumulated considerable political capital. He announced he was going to spend some of it by taking down the ultimate New Deal monument--the much beloved Social Security System. Conventional wisdom assumed he would succeed. The people were not consulted. But then they had just re-elected this man so it must be what they want, too. Yes, political reasoning in Washington is that shallow.

It was in this post-election glow of hubris that the twerps at the White House conspired with twerps in the Justice Department on the scheme to politicize federal prosecutors by firing a bunch of them. They assumed, based on the record, that they could do it and get away with it. Karl Rove blessed the project, Bush added his voice. The temperament was utterly Nixonian. After his second-term victory, Richard Nixon was pumped up by the same overweening pride and vast ambitions. Just before his great fall.

The Army administrators at Walter Reed were doubtless also misled by the presidential hubris. After all, they were doing what the Bush crowd wanted--privatizing the hospital by firing the maintenance staff--and nobody had ever gotten in trouble during the Bush years by following lame-brain instructions from the White House.

Scooter Libby is going to prison for a similar misunderstanding.

And the list is likely to grow longer. Painful as may be to behold these powerful, prideful men brought down, good citizens should do their duty and applaud vigorously. We are also permitted to smile (wisely) at their folly.

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