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Tipping Point? | The Nation

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The Notion

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

Tipping Point?

Sometimes, the proximate cause of an unraveling, even an implosion, may catch everyone by surprise. This week the "tipping point" (to borrow a Bush administration phrase from the Iraq War) for the possible unraveling of Republican control of Congress may be the roiling, boiling Mark Foley affair with its sexually explicit emails and instant messages to teenage House pages, which, in the pattern of any such scandal, has surely not yet fully emerged into view.

Only yesterday, the editorial page of the right-wing Washington Times called on House Speaker Dennis Hastert to resign "at once," while the Washington Post reported "intense anger among social conservative activists in Washington yesterday." Meanwhile, news about how much the Republican leadership (and the FBI) knew about Foley's activities without taking any action continues to emerge and the Democrats are clearly about to press their sudden advantage in undoubtedly below-the-belt campaign ads. As Perry Bacon, Jr. of Time Magazine puts it, a potentially expanding "‘throw the bums' out mentality... could result in a Democratic win in the House" -- and, with that, the power to investigate the Bush administration would fall into far less friendly hands at a moment when the landscape is chock-a-block full of investigative possibilities.

In just the last couple of weeks, it was learned that lobbyist Jack Abramoff may have practically camped out in Karl Rove's office; that Henry Kissinger had quietly returned to the Oval Office to re-fight the Vietnam War; that the complete American intelligence community agreed, in a National intelligence Estimate, that Iraq was a veritable machine for creating terrorists; that (according to the Washington Post's Bob Woodward, who created laudatory portraits of the President when things were going so well) George W. Bush (gasp!) actually lied to the American people about the situation in Iraq; that he was also determined to make sure American troops remained mired in Iraq even if only his wife and dog supported his policy; that his former national security advisor and present secretary of state may have shrugged off a meeting with the top two people in the CIA in July 2001 warning about an Osama bin Laden attack; and finally that Congress passed a bill essentially giving the President and the CIA a get-out-of-jail-free card for illegal past acts in the thriving field of torture and illegal detention.

In such a scandal-ridden, edge-of-election moment in Washington, it's easy enough to let older scandals slip from sight. Right now, that's the case with Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald's upcoming prosecution of I. Lewis Libby, Vice President Cheney's former right-hand man. As it happens, however, even if we've taken our eyes off the case (and the set of scandals behind it), key administration figures haven't for a simple reason that former federal prosecutor Elizabeth de la Vega explains in striking fashion in "Pardon Me? Scooter Libby's Trial Strategy." After all, the Libby case, when laid out in court beginning in mid-January, would threaten to unravel the Vice President's administration command post in full view of the public. The question De la Vega asks is: Post-mid-term elections will the President pardon Libby before a trial can begin. Either way this scandal of the recent past is guaranteed to be a major scandal of the near future.

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