Monday, July 02, 2007

As the Curtain Falls, the Villains Exit Stage Right

With the breaking news of Bush's commutation of Scooter Libby's sentence still rolling hot off the presses, the curtain has finally fallen on yet another depressing piece of Bush Administration kabuki theater. All that is left in this sordid spectacle is the predictable reaction of the audience: the outraged jeers and hisses from the left, the thunderous applause from the right, and the final, painfully evenhanded judgment from the pompous theater critics in the media.

The stage was set from the beginning, when the Administration's fatal character flaw set in motion a chain of events with predictably tragic consequences. Joe Wilson chose to try to set things right in Denmark insofar as he could, and stab through the veil of Administration secrecy and lies, only to be rewarded for his effort by treasonous blades and men poisoned by lust for power. An Administration that came to power through royal coup and was obsessed with invading Iraq at all costs has reaped the inevitable electoral consequences for their transgressions, but the career suicides under a river of evil and the poisoned bodies of betrayed heroes are already too heavy to bear and too numerous to undo. The law, embodied by Fitzgerald, did what it could to hold the guilty accountable--but no more. And in the final act came the inevitable and totally forseeable denouement: illegal obstruction of justice was commuted through the twisted power of legal obstruction of justice, as those who first conspired to pour toxic lies into the ears of the American People walk as free men.

Unfortunately, that will no doubt be the final scene in this foul drama: the villains will exit stage Right, still standing and taking bows to the clamorous approbation of their fans, as the majority of the audience looks on in shocked horror and disbelief, and a vocal segment of the audience makes its displeasure clear. And the critics will turn in their remarks on the whole business with typically dispassionate false objectivity.

The reason this play will end thus is that we have no Hamlets and no Horatios willing to take the risk of committing career suicide and taking arms against this sea of evil. Our Democratic princes and princesses see themselves in quick line for the succession to the throne of our criminally wanton King George; just a few more years, they tell themselves, and this nightmare will be over and all will be well in Denmark again. In the meantime, they would prefer to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous deeds than engage in the sort of swordplay that might endanger their precious political futures. And all the while, the people perish under the weight of abject lawlessness and blatant treason.


It does not have to be thus, of course. A stark choice lies before each and every one of us--a choice by which we will be forever judged in the annals of history.

We can choose to ride out the Bush presidency, in the naive hope that the next Democratic nominee will be our Fortinbras to wipe away the darkness and make of these evil transgressions mere unpleasant memories of a bygone era, even as Claudius, Gertrude, Polonius and Laertes all walk free to wreak their havoc in other capacities.

Or we can choose to be heroes and rush headlong where angels fear to tread in defense of our honor, the Constitution, and the principles of freedom and justice to which our country is so famously and supposedly committed.

But please, elected Democrats, spare us your feigned outrage. All the soliloquies and well-publicized indignation in the world; all the legalistic and parliamentary motions of investigations, senses of the Senate, and no-confidence votes in the world accomplish exactly nothing without decisive action in their wake. Even little children know the difference between a hero and a bureaucrat.

One day those little children--the kids and grandkids of those of us young enough never to have lived in the decade of Vietnam--will ask us what we did, and what our parents did.

Long after the 2008 election is but a distant memory written about only in history textbooks, generations to come will ask not what strategies we used to achieve electoral victory in some House or Senate race somewhere, but rather what we did to stop these villains and hold them accountable for their crimes.

As a child of the Reagan years, I neither know nor care what was done in any given Senate race to win Democratic victory in the wake of Watergate. I neither know nor care how the House leadership chose to play the issue of Vietnam to achieve maximum electoral benefit.

I care instead about Bernstein. I care about Woodward. I care about Frank Church. Because those men were heroes unafraid to cross swords with the most powerful man on earth. Those are the men history will remember. Those are the men who defended America when it needed defending most.

At some point we must, as a Party and as a Movement, decide what is more important: simply winning elections, or being the extraordinary heroes that are required in these extraordinary times?


The evidence is already patently clear enough to impeach Gonzales and Dick Cheney. The outrageous lies and clear obstructions of justice are bright as day. Perhaps Bush still has far too much plausible deniability--and if so, so be it.

The only question that remains is for the Democratic leadership: will you be the heroes your nation requires in its hour of need, or will you instead sell your birthright for the mess of pottage that is the next election cycle? Will you truly allow these villains to walk off stage without feeling the blade of their own karma?

The choice is stark, and your actions will be remembered for generations to come.

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