Far from enjoying the mandate to power wrongly claimed after the 2004 elections, the Bush Administration has instead stumbled along from one crisis and setback to another. In the first year of its second presidential term, the Bush White House has been unable to achieve a single goal set forth in the days after his victory. George W. Bush's grand plans for Social Security "reform" have been ingloriously laid to rest after meeting with mass opposition. The situation in Iraq has only deteriorated, but the country is no closer to "democracy" than it was in the days of Saddam Hussein. U.S. casualties in Iraq have now surpassed the 2,000 mark killed, with some 15,000 wounded. The President's tax cuts for the wealthy and corresponding cuts to social services and Medicare/Medicaid have left a bitter taste in the mouths of working people. Hurricane Katrina dealt the harshest condemnation of the Bush Administration (as well as capitalism in general), with the inept and cynically callous government response in its aftermath. The Administration's efforts to establish a Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) has stalled. Most recently, Bush came home utterly empty handed from the Summit of the Americas held in Argentina where more tens of thousands protested U.S. foreign and economic policy.
The Republican Party itself is increasingly divided between its more traditional (big business) elements and the Evangelical Christian wing of the party. On top of all this there has been the Valerie Plame Affair, a case that promises to widen further, and which may eventually reach Vice President Dick Cheney and President Bush himself.
As we projected last year, re-election has only compounded the problems of the Bush Administration and the American capitalist class in general. Every action they to take produces an outcome which is the opposite of what they hoped for. Instead of stemming the "insurgency" in Iraq, the fraudulent "democratic" elections have only fanned the flames of the resistance. The Administration's efforts to diplomatically isolate Venezuela have instead further isolated the United States within the OAS and in Latin America generally. Bush's tryst with the religious right, while helping him win re-election, has only brought embarrassment due to the likes of Pat "take 'em out" Robertson and Bill Bennett. Republican control of Congress, complete a year ago, is on shaky ground with House leader Tom De Lay indicted on corruption charges and Senate majority leader Frist under scrutiny for insider stock trading. Unfortunately for Bush and his cabinet, it will take much more than daily pleas to the Almighty to deliver his government from the rough straits it finds itself in.
The Party of Enron
As the old saying goes, a man is known by the friends he keeps, and the Republican Party is no exception. In the wake of the Enron Scandal in 2002, GW Bush went to Wall Street to call for corporate accountability. Now he may have to dust off the speeches from three years ago and present them to his own party instead. In September of this year, the House Majority Whip, Tom De Lay (R-Texas,) was indicted by the Travis County court on counts of conspiracy to violate Texas election laws. Specifically, he is charged with violating state laws prohibiting corporate donations to candidates for the Texas state legislature. The charges go back to the 2002 elections and the subsequent redistricting which subsumed the state's Democratic strongholds into larger, overtly Republican electoral districts. At one point, the "steamroller" tactics used by the Republicans in the Texas legislature to push through the redistricting led the state's Democratic Party representatives to travel to neighboring Oklahoma under the cover of darkness in order to prevent the legislature from reconvening. Once the location of the missing Democratic state senators was discovered, Texas state troopers were sent to return the 'refugee' legislators to Austin.
The campaign for redistricting was orchestrated by a PAC (Political Action Committee) called "Texans for a Republican Majority", with De Lay as its chairman. The Texans for a Republican Majority campaign was part of an overall national Republican strategy for the 2004 elections. However, Texas campaign financing laws placed a huge roadblock to the Republican Party by forbidding any corporate contributions to candidates. De Lay and his pal, Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff, decided to find a way to circumvent the law. Large (and still unknown) amounts of corporate money were first given to the Texans for a Republican Majority PAC. The PAC then gave that same amount of money to the Republican National Committee, which then doled the corporate funds out to the party's candidates in Texas. Unfortunately for De Lay and the Republican Party however, in September of this year after the conclusion of a grand jury investigation into the affair, De Lay and several of his staff members have been indicted and were placed under arrest by Travis County District Attorney Ronny Earle. That De Lay's mug shot appeared on the front pages has been a huge embarrassment to the Republican Party and the Bush Administration is sure.
However, with the case opening up the esteemed Representative's career, it also provides an interesting lesson in the workings of American "democracy." Since Bush's ascendancy to the White House in 2000, De Lay has been the President's bully in Congress - using threats and outright bribery to 'convince' recalcitrant members of the House of Representatives to vote the President's way. Mr. De Lay was rewarded by corporate donors for his help with golfing vacations on the island of Guam, Scottish luxury hotel stays and expensive theater tickets in London. In fact, his trip to Guam in 2001 caused a stir on its own because of the fact that this U.S. possession is a notorious sweatshop island.
Also cause for embarrassment for the Republican Party has been the conduct of their fundamentalist Christian allies. Most notable was the now notorious episode of Pat Robertson's "700 Club" television show in which the good Reverend called for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Soon thereafter, former Education Secretary and conservative radio commentator Bill Bennett (another Christian gentleman) 'hypothesized" on his program that, "If you were to abort every black baby in this country, you would see your crime rate go down." The former Education Secretary and casino gambling addict has also been an important supporter of the Bush Administration. While Bush's Administration has been one of the most outwardly 'Christian,' Bush is not a fundamentalist and neither is the Republican Party's leadership nor their capitalist backers. Many in the Republican Party, most notably its 'old guard,' would like to bid the Reverends and their congregation farewell. Recently, former Republican Senator Danforth, currently U.S. envoy to Sudan, published a commentary piece describing the fundamentalists as "a threat to our democratic system." Whether or not Bush and co. are prepared to send their fundamentalist allies packing has yet to be seen.
Even more discord developed between these wings of the President's party when the death of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court William Rehnquist opened a position. In a rare victory, Bush was able to quickly install the conservative John Roberts. Earlier, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor had announced her impending retirement. The White House's first pick, long time Bush crony and aide Harriet Miers, was defeated not by the Democrats, who actually supported her, but by the hard-right elements in the Republican Congress. With the Administration's bully-designate facing trial in Texas and the White House itself paralyzed by the Libby indictment, Bush & Co. had to accept defeat and have now moved on to nominate another conservative to the Supreme Court, Samuel Alito.
Cronyism has been part and parcel of GW's political career, from the days in the Texas State House to the Oval Office. As many know, Michael Brown, the former FEMA director who stepped down in disgrace in the days following Hurricane Katrina, was only given the position due to family and business connections with Bush. His previous job was as the director of the Arabian Horse Association. However, cronyism and corruption - whether 'legal' or illegal - have always been an important ingredient for the workings of modern capitalist democracy. Franklin Roosevelt, for example, made two appointments to the 'sacred' Supreme Court and both had never even been judges before - they were simply former business partners and advisors.
The only difference is that Bush & Co. have taken this to new heights. The bourgeois politicians dole out cabinet positions and department posts with an almost auction-like flair to supporters and donors, just like their own masters - the capitalists - dole out 'campaign contributions' to the candidates, irrespective of party, who promise to do their bidding once elected. In fact, today in American "Democracy" most Senators and Representatives have specialties as it were. Senator Joseph Liebermann (D-CT) for example, was almost exclusively funded into office by the insurance industry. 'Maverick' Senator John McCain (R-AZ) is the exclusive property of the Telecommunications giants. Charles Schumer (R-NY) is one of the Finance men in Congress. And the biggest prize of all went to the Oil industry - their main representatives are none other than the President and the Vice-President of the United States. And, just to sweeten the deal, Halliburton's man Cheney was allowed to keep his company's stock options, to more closely gauge the success of new national energy policies he drafted with top oil executives in 2001.
The Valerie Plame Affair
Now, Bush has suffered yet another blow with the still developing Valerie Plame Affair. During the build up to the war in Iraq, the Administration was straining every nerve to convince the world that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) and that he planned to use them against the West. The now-debunked claims were backed up by flimsy 'intelligence' that no one outside of the Administration was prepared to seriously support. In order to back up claims made by President Bush in his 2003 State of the Union address that Iraq had sought to buy uranium in Africa, the CIA had dispatched former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson to the continent to find evidence of Iraqi purchases of nuclear material. After finding no evidence of the Administration's claims, and believing the White House knew their own claims to be false, Wilson wrote a scathing opinion piece in the New York Times debunking the WMD claims. Shortly after the appearance of the article the White House was forced to admit that their nuclear claims "did not rise to the level of inclusion in the State of the Union address."
Then, on July 14, 2003, only weeks after the appearance of the Times article, an article by conservative columnist Robert Novak identified Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, as an undercover CIA operative. It was immediately obvious that the source of the information was someone in the government. Purposely exposing the identity of a CIA operative is a federal felony, so a federal grand jury investigation was opened on the case. The investigators' attention naturally turned to the White House. In the final months of the grand jury investigation, White House Deputy Chief of Staff and foremost Bush advisor, Karl Rove, was called to testify four times. Finally, on October 28th 2005, the Vice-President's Chief of Staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, was indicted by special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald on counts of perjury and making false statements to the grand jury. It has now been revealed by documents seized from the White House by investigators that it was more than likely Vice-President Cheney himself who divulged that Plame was a CIA operative. It is now apparent that the leak was part of a White House plan to punish Wilson for exposing the Administration's Iraq claims and to intimidate others to toe the line.
After the leak first broke in the news media, the White House announced that President Bush would immediately fire anyone responsible for leaking classified information. However, when it became apparent that the grand jury had narrowed its investigation exclusively to the White House, Bush stepped back from his previous 'pledge.' Although Rove has not yet been indicted, he has already sought the services of the Democratic Party's top lawyer, Robert Luskin.
All this pressure is having an effect on Bush and his inner circle. Several articles have painted a picture of an increasingly edgy and even paranoid Bush. With the situation in Iraq deteriorating, his approval ratings steadily dropping, the aftermath of Katrina still haunting the nation, divisions in his own party, and the DeLay case causing a widespread erosion of faith in the government, Bush may well be threatened with impeachment. But even if the reactionary Bush Administration goes the way of Richard Nixon, where does that leave the working class in the United States? In a two-party duopoly where working people are asked to choose between one anti-Labor, pro-war corporate-funded party or another one, there is no real choice.
Even when we look at the foreign policy, let alone the domestic policy of these two parties, there are more similarities than differences. Take for example this quote from an article by conservative columnist Jonah Goldberg: "Let's reprise what the President had to say on the threat posed by Saddam Hussein: 'If he continues to evade his obligations through more tactics of delay and deception, he and he alone will be to blame for the consequences… Now, let's imagine the future. What if he fails to comply, and we fail to act, or we take some ambiguous third route which gives him yet more opportunities to develop this program of weapons of mass destruction…? Well, he will conclude that the international community has lost its will. He will then decide that he can go right on and do more to rebuild an arsenal of devastating destruction. And some day, some way, I guarantee you, he'll use the arsenal. And I think every one of you who's really worked on this for any length of time believes that, too.' Here's the hitch: that was Bill Clinton in 1998, not George W. Bush in 2002."
Every once in a while when the two wings of the capitalist duopoly bicker with each other they manage to illuminate the real political situation: there is no fundamental difference between these two parties. When the Republicans are inevitably driven from power can we trust the Democratic Party to improve the living and working conditions of the working class, let alone end the war in Iraq or cease its imperialist foreign policy around the globe? Hardly. For this we need a party by and for working people. It's as simple as that.