Carl Bernstein's Vanity Fair Piece Gives The GOP Too Much Credit
Carl Bernstein in the latest Vanity Fair makes the case that not unlike Watergate, we may have reached a point where even Senate Republicans may see a political benefit to opening an investigation of the Bush Administration's competence, or lack thereof. Bernstein surmises that in the aftermath of the latest revelations that Bush authorized the release of classified information for political purposes, and the calls by retired military field commanders for Rumsfeld to resign due to incompetence in Iraq, with the usual reaction from the White House, that Senate Republicans may feel an investigation of the whole administration would actually provide political cover for vulnerable incumbents this fall.
I'd like to think that Bernstein is correct, and he is using Watergate as an example, where the GOP had men like Howard Baker and even Barry Goldwater who eventually saw Nixon for what he was and did the right thing. But Mitch McConnell, Orrin Hatch, and Pat Roberts are not such men. Worse yet, and unlike Watergate, the Senate GOP is populated with craven sycophants angling on Bush's coattails for the top job themselves, whitewashers like Bill Frist, John McCain, Rick Santorum, George Allen, and even Sam Brownback. None of these men should be mentioned in the same breath as Howard Baker or Goldwater, and all of them would throw the lives of our troops in Iraq, our Constitution, and the Bill of Rights overboard in a second to help their own political ambitions.
No, for Bernstein's scenario to have any chance at succeeding, it will fall to the likes of Arlen Specter and John Warner, two men who have no presidential ambitions and perhaps to Chuck Hagel, a man who does and is motivated for albeit self-serving reasons, to do the right thing, not only for their party but also for congressional prerogatives, and call for such a broad inquiry. Bernstein envisions that the Senate could convene such an inquiry between now and the November election, and that such an inquiry would investigate many aspects of the administration's decisionmaking since before 9/11 and leading up to the NSA spying decisions and the Katrina failures, all with an eye to holding the administration accountable for their pursuit of unbridled executive power, secrecy, a overriding mantle of national security, and reduced congressional oversight at the expense of policymaking and day-to-day competency in carrying out basic responsibilities.
Bernstein believes that this inquiry would be seen by vulnerable GOP incumbents as a face saving way to overcome growing dissatisfaction with the GOP rubber stamp congress and as a way to head off Democratic takeovers in one or both houses this fall. I think Bernstein is giving many GOP senators too much credit for being able to separate themselves from Bush, as evidenced by the fact that Mike DeWine needs Bush's money too much and would sell his mother for cash. Similarly, I have lost faith in both Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins to challenge this administration effectively. However, I do think that Lincoln Chafee would support such an inquiry, and that would get the number closer to 51 votes, that is, if Democrats could count on Joe Lieberman and their own red-state 2006 incumbents to stand with them.
I wish Bernstein was correct that there would be support for such an inquiry even from Republicans in the Senate, but we have few people in the Senate GOP caucus who would place country and Senate prerogatives ahead of self-interest. Furthermore, and unlike Watergate, we also now have a right-wing corporate media, with a propaganda apparatus in Fox News and the Mighty Wurlitzer conflating opposition to Dear Leader as treason 24 hours a day, making such independence and integrity within the party even more remote. If you want evidence of how different the media is today from Watergate, I give you Fred Hiatt and the Washington Post editorial page, who would have condoned now what Nixon did then.
No, it is possible that the GOP will just have to take its drubbing this November, and then wonder what could have been if they had only stood up for principle and held this bastard and his pack of criminals accountable before the election.