Bending the Third Rail
Because We Should, We Can, We Do
Tuesday, February 28, 2006
Journalist Mark Danner is interviewed today in Salon. In the interview, he discusses scandals and their consequences. Unfortunately in the Bush administration, there has been a distinct lack of consequences, which is quite damaging to the country and a virtual rewriting of history:
The icebergs are floating by. I've used the phrase to indicate that a process of scandal we've come to know, with an expected series of steps, has come to an end. Before, you had, as Step 1, revelation of wrongdoing by the press, usually with the help of leaks from within an administration. Step 2 would be an investigation which the courts, often allied with Congress, would conduct, usually in public, that would give you an official version of events. We saw this with Watergate, Iran-Contra and others. And finally, Step 3 would be expiation -- the courts, Congress, impose punishment which allows society to return to some kind of state of grace in which the notion is, look, we've corrected the wrongdoing, we can now go on. With this administration, we've got revelation of torture, of illegal eavesdropping, of domestic spying, of all kinds of abuses when it comes to arrest of domestic aliens, of inflated and false weapons of mass destruction claims before the war; of cronyism and corruption in Iraq on a vast scale. You could go on. But no official investigation follows...
I think Danner has got it exactly right, and his interview deserves a full read.

I'll add this. The polls are the final location of consequences for our leaders. The polls failed at the job of accountability in 2004, which is why that loss was so disheartening to anyone who really understands politics and governing. Sure, the loss was tough for those who supported one party over the other. But there was much much more at stake as we've seen from the continuing revelations of wrongdoing, death, and international humiliation due to a lack of accountability in our government. Anyone who ever doubts that elections matter only need look at the era of 2000 to 2008 to remove those doubts.

We now have another "accountability moment" in 2006. I fear that if that next level of accountability does not hold, the institutionalization of corruption may be greatly enhanced. The temptation by politicians who gain power - politicians of either party - to abuse their power is too great for their not to be checks and balances. And the apathy that is spawned from continual and repeated victories of the corrupt is dangerous. It's been shown that a voting public that is asleep at the wheel is a very dangerous thing and that we cannot depend on the constitutional system of checks and balances alone to insure our freedoms.