Sunday, October 23, 2005

The unraveling of the Right

For a while, hurricane Katrina seemed to fix America's eyes on the Gulf Coast. With the media's focus off of Capitol Hill, one might think it would be an opportunity for the Right to gloss up its image, but it was not to be. FEMA's rescue effort in New Orleans led by president Bush's crony was badly bungled. The Right did their best to lay the blame on Democrats, but with little effect -- there was no denying that the Executive branch of the government, i.e. the Bush administration, had ultimate responsibility for the biggest failures. Although Bush, Chertoff, Rumsfeld, and Richard B. Myers all claimed they were not told that New Orleans' levees failed until August 30, a staffer recently testified that FEMA was actually notified on the morning of August 29.

As if that wasn't bad enough news for the Right, the media's attention has now turned back to the Hill. That pesky story about the uncovering of CIA agent Valerie Plame has blown up bigger than ever. It turns out that her identity was leaked by not one, but two White House senior staffers -- both Bush's senior advisor, Karl Rove, and Cheney's chief of staff, "Scooter" Libby. It seems that Patrick Fitzgerald, the federal prosecutor investigating the leak, might not be satisfied with simply leveling indictments for "outing" an undercover agent. Rove and Libby now have serious exposure to legal liability for obstruction of justice -- that's right, a cover-up in the White House again.

That's not the only old story rearing its ugly head again. The investigations into Tom DeLay's ethics violations have come to a head. The prosecutor, Ronnie Earle, formally charged DeLay with state conspiracy and money laundering. DeLay seemed unflappable, taking a very flattering mug shot, but it still reflects badly on the GOP in congress. Of course, charges of corruption on the Right are not limited to the head of the House. Senate majority leader Bill Frist is also under investigation. What is Frist doing voting on healthcare bills while holding significant ownership and interest in Hospital Corporation of America anyway?

Surely the troubles on the Right must be a new phenomenon, right? This must all be part of the second-term controversies that seem to plague all re-elected presidents, mustn't it? Well, maybe not. The chief of staff for the first term's secretary of state recently spoke out about the administration. Lawrence Wilkerson, who served in the State Department from 2001 to 2005, said that Bush's foreign policy was controlled by a "Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal," making the country more vulnerable to future crises, not less so. Wilkerson, a retired Army colonel and former director of the Marine Corps War College, went on to say that the national security apparatus has become more twisted under Bush than he has ever before seen in all of his "studies of aberration, bastardizations" and "perturbations."

With the Right crumbling all around him, Bush had the opportunity to bolster conservatism by nominating a Supreme Court justice. How did he respond? By turning to his old stand-by: cronyism. Bush nominated his own counsel, Harriet Miers, to the highest bench in the land. It turns out that Miers is as qualified to be a Supreme Court justice as "Brownie" was to be the director of FEMA. With no judicial experience to signal what kind of justice Miers would be, criticism of this appointment is louder from the Right than it is from Democrats. Even with the GOP holding a majority, senator Schumer said today that Miers lacks the votes to be confirmed by either the senate at large or the Judiciary Committee. The Left is concerned about her apparent lack of a grasp of Constitutional law, and the Right is not confident that she would rule according to their conservative values on important cases.

The Republican party holds the White House and is the majority in both houses of congress. Right-wing blather floods the talk show radio airwaves. Red states filled the map in the last election. But this dominance cannot be sustained while the leadership continues down the path it's heading unraveling the Right.

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