Despite the corporate media assuring us that President George W. Bush's approval rating is "bouncing back" from its all-time low following Hurricane Katrina, we have witnessed recently a "perfect storm" of events exposing the corruption and incompetence of the Bush Administration and its Republican allies in Congress. With Congress purposely asleep at the switch, we are dependent upon grand juries, local district attorneys, and federal prosecutors to rid us of the cronies, former lobbyists, and political hacks that Bush and the Republican Congress have elevated to high government posts. Absent vigorous Congressional oversight, purging our republic of this misrule will require a Herculean effort from honest prosecutors within our nation's law enforcement institutions.
The most recent example of Congressional negligence is the tightly-controlled, Republican-dominated committee supposedly charged to "investigate" the administration's abandonment of thousands of poor, mostly African-American people in New Orleans in the wake of Katrina. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi correctly called the committee a "sham," and Democrats have refused to participate; the Katrina cover-up committee is yet the latest illustration of the howling need for genuine and purposeful Congressional oversight.
The corporate media seem determined to trivialize the widespread evidence of overwhelming Republican corruption and criminality, arguing, as The New York Times' Anne Kornblut and Todd Purdum do, that there is little difference between the current anti-Tom DeLay activities and the anti-Bill Clinton efforts of yesteryear; both, they claim, are predictable examples of excessive partisanship. Yet this bland, middle-of-the-road assertion overlooks the fact that there have been significant differences in recent history between Republicans and Democrats in their willingness to investigate members of their own party.
For example, during World War Two, when FDR and the Democrats enjoyed huge majorities in both the House and the Senate, Missouri Senator Harry S. Truman chaired a committee that investigated fraud and corruption in the awarding of military contracts. Truman unearthed thirty or so episodes of wrongdoing inside a Democratic administration that saved taxpayers billions of dollars (and probably American lives as well). In 1962, when Democrats had comfortable majorities in both chambers of Congress and a popular president in office, John F. Kennedy's heavy-handed confrontation with the steel industry over arbitrary price increases sparked a Congressional inquiry into possible wrongdoing on the part of the Kennedy Administration. During the Vietnam War era, the Democratic-controlled Senate held dozens of hearings on the most controversial aspects of the war, and the Foreign Relations Committee, under J. William Fulbright, heard testimony from witnesses who were highly critical of Lyndon Johnson's Vietnam policies. These Democratic Senators believed it was their duty to confront an administration headed by a Democratic president who had a clear mandate after having beaten his Republican challenger in 1964 by some 16 million votes.
These historical examples beg the question: Why have Republican Senators, including the so-called maverick John McCain, failed to lift a finger to investigate the voluminous evidence of wrongdoing of the Bush Administration and its allies? For example, why do the House and Senate refuse to minimally carry out their Constitutional responsibility to learn more about the pilfering of Iraq reconstruction contracts that has produced an estimated $8 billion shortfall? After all, the "fiscally conservative" Republicans understand that it is the Congress's job to prudently appropriate the government's money and make sure it is spent lawfully. Or what about the new revelations from an officer formerly with the 82nd Airborne of widespread torture carried out as official U.S. policy in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Guantanamo? Isn't violating the Geneva Conventions and U.S. law prohibiting torture as worthy of an investigation as steroid use among professional baseball players?
Why doesn't the Senate or the House look into the Downing Street Memo and the evidence that Bush "fixed" the intelligence on WMD in Iraq to "fit" his policy of going to war? One would think that the Republicans, who know about "national security," would dedicate a hearing or two to examining a set of newly-released documents that suggest Bush lied to the world about the pretext for expending 2000 American lives and $200 billion in Iraq. What about Halliburton's overcharging the armed forces for delivering food and water to our soldiers? Surely, scrutinizing companies which provide vital services to our brave men and women must be a top priority for the Republicans who never tire of telling us how much they support the troops.
Furthermore, shouldn't the Senate set up a minor subcommittee to look into who in the White House exposed the identity of career CIA agent Valerie Plame? Perhaps a tidbit of the busy Congressional schedule should be dedicated to discovering more about the administration's fake news stories, (labeled illegal "covert propaganda" by the Government Accounting Office), and the tax-dollar pay-offs to syndicated shills for the administration? Or maybe the Congress should look into the deployment of planted phony "journalists" inside the White House press corps? Or the voting irregularities in Ohio in 2004? Or the administration's connections to the indicted über-lobbyist Jack Abramoff?
Shouldn't the Congress open up a credible investigation into the criminal negligence among Bush's cronies in FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security which resulted in the loss of human life in the Gulf States? Or what about the gold rush of no-bid contracts awarded to Halliburton, Fluor, and other connected companies to "rebuild" and gentrify New Orleans? Lest we forget, shouldn't the wheeling and dealing of Majority Leader Tom DeLay raise a few questions among all honest members of Congress, Democrat and Republican? What about Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's blatant insider-trading of stock in his family's company, Hospital Corporation of America (HCA)? Shouldn't Dr. Frist's fortuitously-timed stock dumping be scrutinized at least as much as the similar (although far less lucrative) stock sales of Martha Stewart?
Voters next year will have an opportunity to at least slow down the right-wing juggernaut that has so polarized our country. But corporate "hard" and "soft" cash dominate our campaigns and elections, and in 2006 only about 25 to 30 of the 435 House seats will be in play. The corporate media predictably continue to cheerlead for what is arguably the most unabashedly pro-corporation administration in U.S. history. Unfortunately, corporate money, and the trade associations that pool business cash, have also hallowed out the Democratic Party. And Democratic leaders are as spineless as ever. Even so, with a little luck the one-party state might be on its way to suffering death by a thousand cuts as multiple corruption scandals cascade into a thunderous crescendo demanding public action. The corruption issue, along with the quagmire in Iraq, should be the issues in 2006, if only the Democrats can for once pluck victory from the jaws of defeat instead of the other way around.