The Unprecedented: Another View of the “Evil Force”– Part I, 1993-2008


Early Signs of the Unprecedented in the 1990s

Although it was during the presidency of George W. Bush that the intensity of the darkness became strikingly visible, there were signs even before that of what was brewing. Never before* has a political party ever so persistently sought, as the Republicans in Congress did when Bill Clinton was president, to find a way – any way – to drive a president from office.

If we look at the way the Whitewater investigation persisted for years and eventually morphed into Monicagate, and an attempt to remove the president from office over his sexual conduct, the largest scandal is not the one about the defects of a president than about the refusal of the opposition party — the Republicans– to accept having the power of the presidency wielded by someone from the other major party.

If we put that together with the Republicans’ treatment of Barack Obama a decade later, we are led to note that this Republican Party has not accepted the legitimacy of an opponent being president, as American political parties have always done before, since Jimmy Carter became president nearly 40 years ago.

Thus, already in the 1990s the Republicans had launched an assault, of a nature unprecedented* in American history, on the very foundations of our democratic system of government. A premise of our system is that all contestants for power will accept the outcome of proper elections, will accept that “you win some and you lose some,” accept that whoever the people choose should be allowed to fulfill the job the people gave them.

Without those principles, politics becomes not about the people’s choice, not about working toward a greater good, not about upholding the system our founders gave us, but rather about warfare and the ceaseless struggle for power regardless of the damage to the nation.

The Presidency of George W. Bush:

The presidency of Bush II was unprecedentedly lawless. I would wager that if a list were compiled of all the quite arguably impeachable offenses committed by American presidents, more than half of them would have occurred between 2001-09. In my interview of the extremely conservative jurist Bruce Fein, who served in the Reagan Justice Department, Mr. Fein said:

“Everything in life is a matter of degree, and while FDR, Nixon, McCarthyism, and Clinton were occasionally lawless, Bush is systematically so. Thus he is the greater danger. The rule of law can survive a beating once every five or ten years; it cannot survive beatings every five or ten minutes.”

In its last years, that Bush presidency showed itself to be essentially a “criminal enterprise.” If one had wanted to design a presidency to do as much damage as possible to the fundamental American value “the rule of law” – that bastion of wholeness — one would have had difficulty designing a more effective presidency for the purpose than GW Bush’s.

Consider but two quite telling examples of unprecedented conduct by this Republican Party.

The commutation of Scooter Libby’s prison sentence after his conviction for a crime related to the outing of a CIA agent, and before he’d served a day in prison, is not completely unprecedented: Bush’s father also gave pardons to his cronies who’d been convicted of crimes related to the Iran-Contra scandal.

But the Libby pardon nonetheless stands out in certain important way. The pardon was a compounding of a whole series of misdeeds. It should be recalled that the outing of the CIA agent, Valerie Plame, Was done in the context of an attempt to discredit and punish a responsible American diplomat (Plame’s husband) for telling the American people an important truth that exposed an important lie told by the president (the infamous 16-word falsehood in the State of the Union message). And that lie, in turn, was part of the larger campaign by the administration’s to deceive and manipulate the American people and their Congress into supporting a war of choice undertaken for reasons other than those we were told.

To pardon Libby – the only administration official convicted of any crime in an administration that committed enough crimes and misdemeanors to fill a book (like United States v. George W. Bush et al., by former federal prosecutor Elizabeth de la Vega), after a trial in which the prosecutor was one of the most outstanding Republican U.S. Attorneys in the land – was as clear a statement of the administration’s placing itself above the law as one might devise.

But perhaps the Bushites’ most blatant and dangerous demonstration of contempt for the rule of law, and completely unprecedented in American history, is the matter of the torture memos. The scandal of these memos perhaps should be presented in an entry of its own. Suffice it here to sketch the terrible structure of this travesty.

The memos were a vital step to provide universal immunity for the executive’s commission of crimes. The memos gave the administration the opinion it sought to let the administration do what it wanted to do about torture, without fear of legal repercussions, despite actions in clear violation of federal law and international treaty obligations. Here’s the logic: those who issued the opinion could not be prosecuted because they’d only given an opinion, not committed a crime; and those who perpetrated the criminal actions were to be protected from prosecution because they relied on the opinions telling them their actions were permitted.

The bottom line is this: by the means used in the logic these torture memos, any president could go through this process and thereby be enabled do ANYTHING and escape any legal consequences.

The precedent of the unprecedented torture memos still stands, essentially a continuing threat to demolish altogether the basic American notions of “the rule of law,” that we are “a nation of laws, not of men.”

The list of the unprecedented under GW Bush’s presidency could certainly be expanded – the first presidency to sanction torture at the highest levels, the first presidency to make us hated and feared more than loved and respected by our traditional friends around the world, etc. – but these should suffice for the moment.

They should suffice, that is, to show the nature of the spirit that was expressing itself through the Bush presidency. Much happened during those years that was unprecedented, and virtually without exception these unprecedented presidential behaviors did damage to important aspects of what has been best – most whole – about America.

[to be continued in Part II, regarding the Republican Party’s conduct during the presidency of Barack Obama]

* NOTE: With respect to the “Never” statements, the asterisk means “to the best of my knowledge.” It is hard to preclude the possibility that one is ignorant of some prior instance.

 

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14 Comments

  1. Richard H. Randall

    Profound and moving. Hope David got it.

  2. Andy, you have missed so much. These very things were lamented so much on NSB during those years and so much more. So many then thought Constitutional government was actually gone and that we might NOT have another election.

    But we DID. And the Democrat Party took the White House and the Senate. And NO further investigation of 9/11, no further investigation of the lying pursuit of the Iraq war, no investigation of who were the Unidentified ‘CONTRACT’ Interrogators guiding the atrocities at Abu grabya prison, No investigation and public disclosure of what has happened with Iraq oil that is NOW controlled by China (?) and was supposed to repay the U S taxpayer for ‘LIBERATING’ Iraq (from its oil ? hmm ?
    Etc . . etc . . WITH THE AMERICA POLITICAL SYSTEM APARENTLY ON THE ROPES THE NEW ADMINISTRATION directed public attention to health care and homosexuality. And the wars and disruption over seas HAVE CONTINUED, the national debt has grown to unimagined proportions and what ?

    Who exactly are the Parties anyway ?If you want to pursue TRUTH let’s have a real look at what and who IS over ruling the U S government with its debt in multi trillions and borrowing daily to exist.

    I don’t read mysteries like so many of you Aries but I think a ‘red herring’
    is a deceptive or mis-leading lead ? ? Anyway, is your program really a ‘red herring’ or are you just sincerely innocent ?

    Not intended unfriendly BUT YOU ARE PLAYING WITH ISSUES OF THE LIFE AND DEATH OF A NATION. IT’S EITHER TIME TO GET REAL . . OR WHAT ?!

  3. Good !Thank you . . .

  4. Question for you, David R. Why would God care about homosexuality?

  5. Richard H. Randall

    David, I know you have seen Andy’s comments, as well as my own, on Obama’s weaknesses, and refusal to do a number of the things you mentioned. Obama is tied in as was Bush II to many sources of power and wealth, and they have been sullied by this relationship.
    But you jump to Obama in 2008, when it was Bush II who gave us the huge deficits and TAX CUTS at the same time, not to mention the unnecessary war of choice in Iraq-cost now at over 4 trillion US dollars and counting. The 9/11 commission was a sham staged by the RIGHT: see Loose Change, available for free on the internet. I sincerely recommend it to you, as you care about the truth, or at least your version of it.
    Health care–again David, you haven’t done your homework. The US healthcare system is unsustainable; moreover, it is blatantly immoral, greedy and biased. Obama made an effort to correct some of its major faults-e.g., the issue of pre-existent conditions, and sham insurance policies, to stop over 40,000 American men, women and children from dying from chronic conditions. He has to a large extent succeeded; for this alone,he will be remembered as a moral president. As for homosexuality,
    the religious prejudice against such persons in immoral and constitutionally unjustifiable. That’s as plain as it gets.

  6. Well, since you ask a question, I will also. (and will also answer)

    First though, is The God of the Bible actually Real ?
    Is there a real awesome Spirit ‘Person’, self existent, eternal- always was and always will be – who creates by the power of his Will and his Word. And Who INTENDS to be ‘known’ and acknowledged by his created.

    And IF we believe that He IS,. . . WAS, and EVER SHALL BE . . .how did we find out ?

  7. In the grand scheme of things now, my “pet peeves” during the “early oughts” of the 21st century are insignificant. But in the context of this specific thread maybe reporting on one of them may be slightly more than worthless.

    Fairly early in the George W. Bush first administration I deemed much of what the President was doing genuinely worthy of impeachment, in contrast to what President Clinton had been unsuccessfully impeached for. But that was just after the Clinton administration during which impeachment was formally pursued in the national legislature. So I had to deal — in my own personal conscience at any rate — with what I thought was a genuinely important, therefore tragic, tradeoff between the virtue of impeachment of a president for cause versus the damage of creating a precedent, given what had happened during the Clinton administration, of routine impeachment of a sitting President by the opposition party. It seemed to me that Republicans during the Clinton administration had — at least for Americans who think as I do — preemtively increased the height of the normal barrier to impeachment the nation was faced with during the George W. Bush administration.

    After a time I thought it important enough to the health of the Republic to impeach a sitting president for cause — no matter what had happened during the previous administration — even at the “setting the unfortunate precedent” so to speak.

    I have heard some rumors of an attempt to impeach President Obama. I don’t know how far that will go.

  8. Richard H. Randall

    I have heard some of the same.

    • That dichotomy: one side makes a fight over everything, even when the nation needs cooperation; the other side is reluctant to fight over anything, even when the nation needs them to fight to protect it. Likewise, one side is hot to impeach presidents who have committed no high crimes and misdemeanors; while the other side will not impeach a president who systematically subverts the rule of law.

  9. Since water boarding IS NOT torture and is supposed to bring out the truth
    (whole ?) was it an ‘evil’ fantasy to have this applied to Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Paulson ?
    We can connect the dots we do have
    and see where we seem to be today
    And find it difficult to find them innocent.

    But there are the other players and the game goes right on
    hidden in plain sight.
    Maybe not really hidden; just dare not see ?! I wonder .

    On the other hand are there maybe inevitable consequences for a society or nation or a people that follow the ways of its culture and conduct
    and all the players bringing it about are merely pawns on the great stage of history,
    whatever their personal motives may be ?

    Was it a destiny always . . and inevitable ?

    Time marches on . . .

  10. Richard H. Randall

    Waterboarding is torture. It is not malicious to call to account those who torture, and those fabricate ‘legal’ justifications of this and other practices which the civilized world, to include the U.S. Military Justice system knows is torture. The President has put an end to our torturing, reminiscent of the Nazis, and Communists. David, why is this not clear to you?

  11. For any general reader:

    “IS NOT” as per Bush era. I realized there are minds of a type that would miss the point when I used caps in place of the quotes.

    I remember Pony Belle, a runt mare, back when I kept horses; if she could find any weak place in the fence, that became her escape.

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