We have to go back to the early 1970s to find rubble so satisfactorily piled up around our imperial government. In fact, when the bodies are counted, the collapse in Nixon’s second term may well pale in comparison to the Götterdämmerung of the Bush dynasty.
In Nixon’s case, top officials and aides forced into resignation, and in many cases prison, included the Vice President, the head of the FBI, two attorneys general and four senior White House staffers.
On March 1, 1974, a grand jury named President Nixon, among others, as an unindicted co-conspirator, for obstructing justice by suppression of evidence such as the White House tapes. In August of that year Nixon resigned.
Yes, it was quite a holocaust at the top executive level. But many imperial institutions sailed through the crisis unimpaired, supposedly ennobled by it. Kissinger’s sway over State Department and Empire was enhanced.
The Supreme Court sailed on, led by Nixon’s chosen instrument, Warren Burger. Both the Senate and House of Representatives gained a heroic aura as the TV cameras turned Sam Ervin and even Howard Baker into saviors of the Republic. The Democratic Party emerged with credit and huge majorities in November 1974. Most of all, the Fourth Estate was anointed (mostly by itself) as the vanquisher of despotism.
Contrast this to the inferno that now threatens the Imperial Establishment on every front. Since Nixon-time the Republic has had thirty-one years to run to seed–fatter and more corrupt. Already the most powerful politician in Washington, House majority leader Tom DeLay, is under indictment and in consequence stripped of his official position. The future looks grim for Senator Bill Frist, who faces SEC and Justice Department probes for insider trading.
On Capitol Hill there’s open warfare among various factions of the Republican Party, focused for now on Bush’s nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. With midterm elections looming and Bush’s approval ratings tumbling, the collapse of discipline will only accelerate amid the general panic.
The Bush high command is in utter disrepute, openly attacked by Colin Powell’s former chief of staff, Lawrence Wilkerson, as a dictatorial “cabal.” The Plame scandal has threatened to take out the whole of Vice President Cheney’s senior staff and to have the Vice President himself named as unindicted co-conspirator. Bush’s deputy chief of staff, Karl Rove, is in serious trouble, less and less able to counsel his boss, whose presidency hangs over the precipice of total ruin.
Consider the gloomy vista from Bush the Unlucky’s Oval Office, where even the birds in the Rose Garden are omens of yet another national crisis (scheduled to provide another bonanza for the drug companies, which a Senate subcommittee just voted to hold free of any liability if their flu vaccines have the same lethal potential they did in the days of the swine flu).