It's been a bad week at 1600 Pennsylvania. Since the 2006 election, the Republican Party and President Bush in particular has been in a political "flat spin" unable to regain control of a news cycle that is rapidly descending through "negative" past "dismal" and on its way to "catastrophic." If there were even the slightest doubts that the Bush Presidency will be remembered as the "miserable failure" of Neo-Consertivism run amuck, they have surely evaporated by now.
Caught in a "political perfect storm" the Bush Administration is now weathering the consequences of six years of hard-right politics, short-sighted policies, and moral ambiguity. Yet Congressional interest in hard-hitting investigations and hearings on the administration's transgressions is tepid at best. Even so, after six intensely, some might say insanely, right-wing years even the most casual of investigations is likely to reflect badly on the White House and with two years left in office, the Bush Administration is unlikely to enjoy the consequences.
Though the Walter Reed scandal began brewing in the warrens of Building 18 some years ago, and first broke into the media in late February, the damning news that the GOP Congressional Leadership as well as highly placed officials in the Bush Administration knew and yet did nothing, was revealed by the Congressional Quarterly and The Washington Post earlier this week. On March 1, 2007 the Washington Post broke the news that
Top officials at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, including the Army's surgeon General, have heard complaints about outpatient neglect from family members, veterans groups, and members of Congress for more than three years. (Emphasis added) Congressional Quarterly followed the Washington Post report with an exposé on Congressional failures to address Walter Reed's inadequacies, including a statement from Rep C.W. "Bill" Young (R-FL) epitomizing the GOP's oft-criticized policy of "supporting the war but not the troops."
Senior Republicans who knew about problems at Walter Reed Army Medical Center while their party controlled Congress insist they did all they could to prod the Pentagon to fix them.
But C.W. Bill Young, R-Fla., former chairman of the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, said he stopped short of going public with the hospital's problems to avoid embarrassing the Army while it was fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
This perception, that the Bush Administration and the wider Republican Party is unconcerned with the health care and welfare of wounded veterans does significant damage to the identity of the Republican Party as the "wartime party" and the Reagan Era "strong on defense" mantra of the GOP. Such a blow would be staggering, in and of itself, to a party already on the ropes following its Congressional Defeat in November, but more was still to come.
Lewis "Scooter" Libby
The Libby trial has been a nightmare for the Bush Administration. Loss of Congressional control to the Democrats has opened up the investigatory organs of the Congress and the White House can expect close Congressional scrutiny in the months to come. Libby's trial, however, represented the first serious inquiry into the behavior and actions of the Bush White House. Patrick Fitzgerald's prosecution picked Libby's statements apart, brought reporters and insiders to the stand, and presented a picture of the inner workings of the Bush White House and the Vice President's Office that turned the stomachs of the American People.
Libby's conviction, touched off a virtual firestorm, particularly in amongst so-called "Internet Activists." The social bookmarking site Reddit was overrun with posts and comments calling for impeachment proceedings against Bush and Cheney resulting in thousands, perhaps millions, of emails which flooded Congressional offices over the week. The conviction emboldened other critics of the Administration as well, and Fitgerald's decision to cease his investigation following the Libby trials will likely spur broader Congressional inquiries and more negative press for the Bush White House.
Eight US Attorneys
Before the ink was dry on the Libby conviction another story had caught the attention of the American Media. Like Walter Reed, the Bush Administration's firings of several US Attorneys had slowly gained visibility amongst the growing maelstrom of other stories embarrassing to the Bush Administration. The wave crested when Judiciary Chairman John Conyers (D-Michigal) and Linda Sanchez (D-California) sent letters to current and former White House attorneys asking for statements. Conyers made a statement to the press, commenting:
Until we get a clear and credible answer from the Bush administration on who made the decision to fire these U.S. attorneys and why they did it, we will continue our investigation
The explanation was almost immediately forthcoming. Six of the eight fired attorneys testified in rapid succession, outlining endemic cronyism, constant political interference in investigations, and a complete lack of explanation for their firings in the wake of the November elections.
Domestic Spying Revisited
Just as the US Attorney story was hitting the headlines another damning report came forward. With public attention already focused on the Justice Department and the attorney firings, a DOJ audit revealed that the FBI had illegally misused the Patriot Act to compromise and infringe upon the protections and liberties of thousands of Americans. Though Robert Mueller, the FBI's director, defended the Bureau's requests as anti-terrorism related, the inquest was unambiguous.
We believe the improper or illegal uses we found involve serious misuses of national security letter authorities.
Muller, a political appointee, took responsibility for the lack of oversight and apparent violations, though to what degree his sacrifice will spare the White House remains to be seen.
I am to be held accountable. The inspector general went and did the audit that I should have put in place many years ago. While we've already taken some steps to address these shortcomings. I am ordering additional corrective measures to be taken immediately.
Despite all of this the odds of a Presidential Impeachment are slim. Under threat of a full-blown Congressional investigation, the Bush Administration is effectively hamstrung by the Democratic Majority. Though the nation's long suffering Left would doubtless rejoice at the news of impeachment proceedings against the Bush Administration, the political pitfalls of such a tactic are numerous and significant. Clinton enjoyed a massive surge in popularity during his impeachment and though there is no guarantee that Bush would experience a similar windfall, the Administration's near-Nixonian approval ratings appear fertile ground for Democratic hopefuls in 2008.
As more skeletons emerge from the Oval Office closet, however, we may well see just how deep this rabbit hole goes.
Others to be listed...