The Bush/Cheney regime has rammed down the nation's throat "signing statements," torture as official policy, secret prisons, illegal spying, the suspension of habeas corpus, political purges of U.S. attorneys, preventive wars, cronyism, no-bid contracts, and an utter contempt for Congressional checks on Executive power. And with all this going on the general contentedness of the chattering classes is startling. Overpaid prognosticators like Adam Nagourney, David Sanger, Dana Milbank, Michael Kinsley, David Broder, David Gergen, and the rest, continue to serve up their bland and copious political "analyses" as if nothing is out of the ordinary. They even give the cautionary advice to members of the Legislative Branch that they better not push back against President George W. Bush too vigorously lest they be stung by voters in the next election.
Americans are divided at home and reviled abroad. Our reputation overseas is the worst it has been in our history. And our political commentators warn us against the "over-reaching" of the Democrats in Congress? A Congress that can only muster 218 votes in the House to put limits on an illegal war that was based on a pack of lies? Remember the "mushroom clouds" and the yellow cake from Niger?
At this juncture, we might be just one large terrorist attack away from a form of military dictatorship. If you think I'm kidding, read Chalmers Johnson's new book, "Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic." Just as Gore Vidal and other prescient thinkers have warned, Johnson shows that the "imperial presidency" is overwhelming the system of "checks and balances," and leading us toward authoritarianism.
Since the end of World War Two, with the creation of the CIA, the NSA, the NSC, and the DoD, there has been a real tension between whether the United States is going to be a republic or an empire. Johnson argues convincingly the decision has already been made, like earlier empires, most notably the Roman and the British empires, the United States has reached a turning point: either we abandon our imperial ambitions or we will surrender our republic to the voracious appetite of servicing the empire. Johnson remains hopeful "that Americans can still rouse themselves to save our democracy," but he warns "the time in which to head off financial and moral bankruptcy is growing short."
Contrast the mainstream political "commentators" with the consistent remarks of Bill Moyers over the past few years, and it really drives home the extent of their detachment. Moyers has been sounding alarm bells, and he sees the magnitude of the catastrophe Bush has wrought.
Bush and Cheney have brought the crisis to a head with their largely successful expansion of executive power. They control a global military and intelligence network, a multi-billion dollar secret budget, front companies, "cut outs," secret prisons, and mercenary armies. Unless the Congress and the Courts assert themselves now and with vigor, we're in big trouble. It is painful to witness the corporate media's gatekeepers of our political discourse miss what is right in front of their faces.
In a speech last February entitled, "A Time for Anger, A Call to Action," Bill Moyers said: "Looking backwards, it all seems so clear that we wonder how we could have ignored the warning signs at the time. What has been happening to working people is not the result of Adam Smith's invisible hand but the direct consequence of corporate activism, intellectual propaganda, the rise of religious literalism opposed to any civil or human right that threaten its paternalism, and a string of political decisions favoring the interests of wealthy elites who bought the political system right out from under us."
And, as always, the problem boils down to the decrepitude of the corporate news media. Tony Snow and the other right-wing spin-meisters know that any story, no matter how shocking or horrific, whether it is Abu Ghraib or Hurricane Katrina, can be spun and twisted and fragmented and de-contextualized in a couple of 24-hour "news cycles" to the point where it become meaningless, or "yesterday's news." They know the news media will jump to the next big story, and all they have to do is wait it out. Remember the Downing Street Memo? It is the smoking gun for the impeachment of George Bush, and commentators like Michael Kinsley declared it "old news" the second it hit the Internet.
Big questions like the ones Johnson and Moyers pose relating to whether we want to live in an empire or a republic cannot begin to be explored in this abhorrent media environment. If you don't think we're moving in an authoritarian direction, then ask the N.Y.P.D. why it spent a year infiltrating non-violent peace groups all over the country prior to the 2004 Republican National Convention.
In 2000, amidst the presidential campaign, The Nation magazine ran a cover with a caricature of Bush as Alfred E. Newman wearing a button that instead of saying the usual, "What, Me Worry?" it read simply: "Worry." In 2007, now is the time to worry. Bush has plenty of time to make things much worse, (like hatching a pretext to attack Iran). Unless something powerful and decisive comes out of the 110th Congress, no election will be able to provide the nation with the democratic corrective it so desperately needs. All of the pundits should do a little homework; take an afternoon off and read Johnson and Moyers.