Following the recent testimony by Dick Cheney's former chief of staff that both President Bush and Vice President Cheney were actively involved in scheming to discredit former Ambassador Joe Wilson, after Wilson revealed that the administration had used discredited intelligence to make the "case" for attacking Iraq, another key figure from the Watergate era has called for a Congressional investigation of wrongdoing by the current occupants of the White House.
On the heels of former White House counsel John Dean's charge that the crimes of the Bush administration are "worse than Watergate," Carl Bernstein, who as a young reporter for the Washington Post was part of the team that broke the story of Richard Nixon's high crimes and misdemeanors, is urging the Senate to launch a bipartisan investigation into the president's actions.
Though he says it is "premature" to talk of impeachment, Bernstein argues in a new Vanity Fair article that, "[It] is essential that the Senate vote -- hopefully before the November elections, and with overwhelming support from both parties -- to undertake a full investigation of the conduct of the presidency of George W. Bush, along the lines of the Senate Watergate Committee's investigation during the presidency of Richard M. Nixon."
Bernstein asks, rhetorically, "How much evidence is there to justify such action?"
His answer: "Certainly enough to form a consensus around a national imperative: to learn what this president and his vice president knew and when they knew it; to determine what the Bush administration has done under the guise of national security; and to find out who did what, whether legal or illegal, unconstitutional or merely under the wire, in ignorance or incompetence or with good reason, while the administration barricaded itself behind the most Draconian secrecy and disingenuous information policies of the modern presidential era."
But could Arlen Specter really be the Sam Ervin of the 21st century?
Bernstein suggests that Republicans such as Senate Judiciary Committee chair Specter, who control the Senate, ought to recognize -- for political reasons, if nothing else -- that their party needs to signal its willingness to challenge an increasingly unpopular. administration.
"[Voting] now to create a Senate investigation -- chaired by a Republican -- could work to the advantage both of the truth and of Republican candidates eager to put distance between themselves and the White House," writes the veteran reporter, who adds, "The calculations of politicians about their electoral futures should pale in comparison to the urgency of examining perhaps the most disastrous five years of decision-making of any modern American presidency."
Bernstein closes his detailed argument for a senatorial intervention with an observation and an appropriate call to action.
"After Nixon's resignation, it was often said that the system had worked. Confronted by an aberrant president, the checks and balances on the executive by the legislative and judicial branches of government, and by a free press, had functioned as the founders had envisioned," he writes. "The system has thus far failed during the presidency of George W. Bush - at incalculable cost in human lives, to the American political system, to undertaking an intelligent and effective war against terror, and to the standing of the United States in parts of the world where it previously had been held in the highest regard. There was understandable reluctance in the Congress to begin a serious investigation of the Nixon presidency. Then there came a time when it was unavoidable. That time in the Bush presidency has arrived."