Friday, November 11, 2005

Crystal Ball

People reading this essay work for a living, have other things to do in the evenings, and want some sort of key to the perplexing kaleidoscope of political news stories and pundit opinions. It has been this way forever; politics is the fifth wheel on every buckboard, stagecoach, and 767 driven or flown across this country.

This means that hardly anyone is expert at politics among the voters. For most, politics is a passing acquaintance, one you nod to, but hardly ever speak to. Politics is the guy with the too shined shoes, the alligator belt, the easy smile and full head of hair. Politics is alien and troubling.

This fundamental ignorance breeds the sort of contempt that ironically often passes for wisdom among adults in America, the easy contempt for "both their houses," the lying, cheating, pork-eating bastards! But, maybe this is all wrong. Maybe the interest in Bartlet's West Wing and Mackenzie's Commander in Chief arises from a yearning to know what cannot really be publicly told. Perhaps there is something going on in politics that transcends the grubby and brazen. Perhaps the almost universal ennui over high school civics and history is the symptom and not the cause. Maybe the electorate, in the main, really does understand that honest people sometimes have to lie low waiting for the right moment to appear honest publicly and register their weight when it will do the most good.

Maybe that very moment is upon us. It could very well be that the issue that propelled a dozen people (among them the staff of the American Liberalism Project) to petition the Democrats in both houses two years ago, calling for the impeachment of George W. Bush is now ripening in the larger arena of professional politics and, finally, journalism. If you read The Nation 11/14/05 issue, Elizabeth de la Vega's uncompromising conclusion is that impeachment is warranted.

At the same time, we have all been wondering about the wimpy attitude and comportment of Hill and statehouse Democrats. Why were they so inept in challenging Bush, Cheney, and the Rumsfeld cabal? The answer is that they understand political momentum better than we. More important, they understood the lack of it. With even his narrow victory in 2004 Bush was able to propel his 9/11 national security juggernaut out into the foreseeable future of January 2005. The war was a mess, but interest in the war was desultory. Then, later this year, a series of missteps and bad luck stopped the imperial machine in its tracks. Katrina was the accidental coup d'grace, the fulcrum of fecklessness, the piece d'resistance!

Here is how it is playing out now. UK Prime Minister Blair will lose another vote in Parliament and there will be a parliamentary rebellion. Chemical warfare, especially white phosphorus, will be the rallying cry. This may play out over the 2005 holidays and into February and March. Blair's successor will withdraw British troops from Iraq, giving Bush/ Cheney/ Rumsfeld inadequate notice to formulate a politically palatable response.

By mid-January home heating oil costs will be vividly apparent to everyone in the temperate zones of North American and Europe. This will set up the dynamic between people and their elected representatives.

House and Senate Republicans, already chastened by October's and November's significant losses all over the political landscape and spectrum, will rebel. We won't see this happen, but people around Blunt and Hastert and around Santorum and Hatch, pushing aside Frist and DeLay as albatrosses no one wants stinking around their necks in 2006, will force the issue with Bush (or Cheney). One or the other, they will be told, may be impeached and Republicans' hands will be tied.

Cheney might resign to avoid the opprobrium and another heart attack. Bush will not. He will cling like grim death to Karl Rove, who has already been mentioned as a prime candidate for resignation, but whose hand will not be forced because of the huge power he has over Bush and the cowboy/neocon cabal in the Republican Party.

All of this is Englishmen and Republicans responding to the unfolding of events. Democrats are behind the scenes putting their minority weight now where it will do the most good. "Get along" Congressmen will become more and more intransigent.

Special Attorney Fitzgerald will come out with additional indictments. Rove may or may not be mentioned, but our guess is that he will be. He is a terrible witness and probably has already indicted himself. The only reason he was not named right off the bat is because Fitzgerald, knowing that Cheney was in his sights and possibly Bush himself, wanted to afford Bush some time do something really stupid and revealing.

The SEC will indict Senator Frist and he will be forced to resign not just from the leadership of the Senate, but from public office entirely. This will echo down the marble hallways and into the RNC where opponents of Senator John McCain will take notice that Cheney's antagonist now is a surer nominee. McCain's ever more obvious enmity to Cheney will stoke the fires of disunity and leave the White House even more off-balance.

DeLay's trial may or may not begin before the next event.

After the holiday recess, during which the poignancy of the war weary troops is brought to mind again and again and again, Bush, hoping for a new commander-in-chief role to play to the bleachers, will play "the bird flu card." He will try a practice run of the newly hatched plan to "secure and quarantine." The targets cities will be places like Portland, Oregon and Portland, Maine, but the drill will go massively awry in the rainy and bitter weather, embarrassing every Republican from the Hamptons to Newport Beach. Meanwhile, Bo Pilgrim sitting on several million chickens down in Texas will give W an impossible ultimatum that he cannot refuse.

With the 2006 bi-elections hurtling into the ever-gloomy present, panicked, and fearing annihilation, the ultra-rightwing Republicans will make an ugly stab at mobilizing the theocrats. The Christian Restoration in Ohio, Rev. Rod Parsley and Co., and their acolytes in Texas, Oklahoma, and elsewhere will overplay their hands, nauseate the moderate middle, and turn over the election to the Democrats. Santorum will go down in ugly self-righteous flames, taking with him the Republican majority in the Senate. With the impeachment court now in enemy hands, the House, which will now hang on an issue-by-issue and slim but undisciplined Republican majority, will be faced with daily media full of the testimony spilling out in the Abramoff case, the DeLay case, the incarceration of Frist in the Martha Stewart memorial suite in West Virginia, the arraignment of Libby and others, the frothing madness of Dick Cheney, and the truculent, mendacious, arrogance of Rumsfeld mismanaging the occupation of Iraq. Bush himself becomes the sacrificial lamb ... excuse me ... goat!

Bush will be impeached! There is no other way for Republicans to be rid of him, to distance themselves from his stench enough to have a chance of a rebound after 2008, when surely Democrats playing their new momentum will retake the White House.

Politics is the momentum of perception played on the grassy knoll of belief.

James R. Brett