Start with Bush. Never at ease before the cameras, he now has the hunted blink and compulsive nasolabial twitch of the mad dictator, a cornered rat with nowhere left to run. Nixon looked the same in his last White House days, and so did Hitler, according to those present in the Führerbunker. As Hitler did before him, Bush raves on about imagined victories. Spare a thought for the First Lady, who has to endure his demented and possibly drunken harangues over supper. The word around Washington is that he’s drinking again. At this rate he’ll be shooting the dog and ordering the First Lady to take poison, which I’m sure she’ll have great pleasure in forwarding to her mother-in-law.
Certainly it’s hard to escape Bush’s voice. Every time I turn on the radio, there he is giving a press conference, or yet another bulletin on the great triumphs in Iraq (where the recent election produced utter defeat for the United States and total victory for Iran). There’s talk of a Bush bounce in the polls, though I tend to believe the usually reliable Zogby poll, which found on December 13 that after edging back up above 40 percent in November, Bush’s job approval rating was once again at 38 percent. I’m sure millions of Americans yearn to approve of Bush. He’s officially scheduled to be in the White House for another three years, and who wants a lemon in the garage that long? And indeed, the President does still have his die-hard fans, clustered in their places of worship in the remoter regions of the country. A mid-November poll by SurveyUSA found that in only seven states did Bush’s current approval rating even hover around 50 percent. These consisted of thinly populated states where sexual relations with livestock are still commonplace: Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Alabama and Mississippi.
All the same, we’ve mishandled the situation. When Bush landed on the aircraft carrier and said, Mission accomplished, we all sneered. Wrong move. We should have applauded and said, Now leave! Same thing when there turned out to be no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. We sneered again. We should have said, Great! America’s safe. Let’s quit while we’re ahead.
Now Bush is saying that the job will be done when Iraqis enjoy the democratic freedoms guaranteed Americans. We should say, They do! Bought news stories; secret surveillance of phone calls, e-mails and faxes; arrest without warrant; disappearances; torture–you’ve brought our democracies into sync. Call it a day, bring the troops home and then we can start impeaching you.
But who would do the impeaching? The Democrats have lost as much credibility as the President and the Republicans. Ever since the New York Times loitered a year late into print with its disclosure about the NSA spying program (only the latest in a sequence of unconstitutional infamies by that agency stretching back for decades, mostly against domestic political protesters), I’ve seen it argued that if the Times had gone with the story last year, Kerry might be President.
But if the Democrats had cared about the Constitution, they could have broken the story last year. Democratic Congressional leaders knew, because the whistleblowers from the NSA desperately tried to alert them, only to get the cold shoulder. Kerry’s prime advisers on such matters–Richard Clarke and Rand Beers–knew, because they’d previously been Bush’s top functionaries in the “war on terror.”