For the first time since 2000, the Republican Party machine seems less able to steamroll the opposition. It began in early 2005, when George W. Bush, after his razor thin reelection, announced that he was going to cash in some of his "political capital" by trying to convince Americans it would be a good idea to strip billions of dollars from the Social Security trust fund and hand it over to his friends in the financial services industry. During the 2004 campaign, Bush had not mentioned his plan to destroy Social Security in order to "save" it, and the more he talked it up the less the public liked what it heard. Then came Camp Casey and Katrina, Libby and Abramoff, DeLay and Cunningham, Ney and Foley. Today, even the super-hawk Republican Senator from Virginia, John Warner, the chair of the Armed Services Committee, is beginning to see reality in Iraq.
In the 2006 campaign season, the Republicans' fear and smear tactics resonate less with the public, and the current GOP implosion might allow the Democrats to pull off a victory. The corporate media have wasted no time in pressing the Democrats if they are successful to "move to the center," and avoid confronting the Bush Administration lest they appear "partisan." We can already hear the bleating of pundits along these lines. Democrats should ignore the gaseous emissions from the likes of Joe Klein and David Gergen and Joseph Lieberman or anyone else predicting political doom if they behave like an opposition party.
If Democrats win and begin to subpoena documents, hold hearings, and place witnesses under oath, the right-wing reaction will be deafening. Let Tony Snow and Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter and the rest of the chorus yell and shriek and jump up and down if they like. Let them charge the Democrats with "partisanship" or "abuse of power" or "Liberal elitism"; it doesn't matter: the Congress has no choice but to assert itself as a co-equal branch of government, and the Republicans are clearly unwilling to do so.
Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute and Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institute are careful to spread the blame for the current breakdown in the House of Representatives on Democrats as well as Republicans. But it was not the Democrats who elevated a corrupt Majority Leader who called the Environmental Protection Agency "the Gestapo." It was not the Democrats who held weekly political meetings with Grover Norquist who has dedicated his life to shrinking government to a size "where it can be drowned in the bathtub." And it was not the Democrats who chose to ignore oversight of the Iraq War in favor of holding hearings on steroid use among professional baseball players.
Representative Christopher Shays of Connecticut and other Republican "moderates" now criticize the Bush Administration only after voting in favor of every significant piece of legislation or appointment Bush placed before them. We waited for six years for the Republican "moderates" to stand up to the extremist agenda of the Bush-Cheney regime, but they never did. The chairman of their party, Ken Mehlman, recently said that Administration officials should "be fighting terrorists as opposed to fighting subpoenas." In other words, the Republicans will continue to exploit the "war on terror" for political gain, and block any meaningful oversight of the Executive Branch.
The Democratic Party must give Representatives Henry Waxman, John Conyers, Edward Markey, Dennis Kucinich, and other honest Congressional leaders the tools they need to investigate the six-year reign of Bush the Younger and his rubber stamp House of Representatives. Progressives within the party should take the lead, and those who voted too often with the Republicans should be pushed aside, (especially the thirty-four Democrats who voted "Yea" for Bush's rollback of habeas corpus). Our governing institutions must be cleansed; Constitutional checks and balances restored. The people must take back the "People's House!"
If Democrats take the House it is their patriotic duty to investigate the White House's deals with Haliburton, Bechtel, and other corporations that received lavish contracts for the Iraq War. Too many lives have been lost to look the other way. They must haul before their committees Rummy and Condi and Elliot Abrams and other officials to face tough questioning under oath. They must subpoena sheaves of documents relating to the Downing Street memos, the NSA wiretaps, the CIA's secret prisons, and Karl Rove's ties to Jack Abramoff. The lobbyists, cronies, and cardsharps who Bush appointed to Executive Branch sinecures must be dragged out of the shadows and into the sunlight. It is time for the truth!