10/29/2005 04:22 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Dangers of Bush Agonistes

More than eighty years ago the administration of Warren G. Harding imploded in embarassment and shame because the President lacked the awareness and the moral commitment necessary to curb his associates' greediest and most craven instincts. Harding receded into detached paranoia, and was largely absent from the closing days of his tenure.

Eight years later the Hoover administration foundered in the face of sudden socioeconomic crisis, and Republicans so lost the confidence of the voting public that the society was gradually reconstructed in the image Franklin Delano Roosevelt preferred.

By the time the New Deal graduated to the Great Society, Lyndon Johnson seemed poised for a year or so on the verge of becoming a latter-day FDR. By three years later his administration was so thoroughly defined by its misjudgments and deceits in Viet Nam that Johnson abjectly withdrew from his own re-election campaign. Then the lame duck President flew into Oval Office rage, verbally decapitating staffers and Cabinet members, ranting behind clolsed doors at his perceived bete noir, Bobby Kennedy.

Johnson was followed in office by Richard Nixon, whose dreams of making a mark on history were shortcircuited by scandal borne of his cadre's belief that political power placed them above the letter of the law. As Congress prepared the Articles of Impeachment, Nixon stormed through the halls of the White House, out of control.

Each of those four administrations was ultimately wrecked by the presence of a single overwhelming trauma.

The Bush administration has managed to collect four of a kind, with a war that holds all the promise of Vietnam circa '69, a disaster response that established what libertarianism really is, a shot-in-the-dark Supreme Court nomination that bit the hand that was sure it had fed him, and an in-house criminal scandal that now threatens to spit out an intermittent but ongoing crescendo of revelations about the series of lies that led to the war in question.

Whew! If the President can get through this without drinking, he might bury twelve-step programs forever, no?

The idea of thrity-nine months of Bush Agonistes is, of course, only momentarily comical. It will be increasingly important to supply controls so that desperate gyrations don't lead to more unwarranted disasters That means, of course, the off-year elections, where local Democratic Party organizations must perform like never before to take full advantage of a favorable ladscape

It's equally important to read John Conyers and BradBlog to follow the election scandal and reform story, because we all need to be aware of what we can do to prevent any more stolen elections. As investigatory authorities have begun to establish, there are criminals in high places, and they have no self-restraint. We as Americans are going to have to be vigilant about restraining them for the remainder of their increasingly awkward tenure .