Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Exploiting Shame or Impeachment without the votes

Kung Fu Monkey has a brilliant analogy on the Bush-Cheney theory of political governance:

According to the Dictionary of Video Game Theory, an "exploit" is --

... an exploit can be defined as a case where a player knowingly uses a flaw in a game to gain an unfair advantage. In many concrete cases, it can be difficult to distinguish between cheats, exploits, and players who optimize their strategies for playing.

.... As I watched Congressmen and Senators stumble and fumble and thrash, unable to bring to heel men and women who were plainly lying to them under oath, unable to eject from public office toadies of a boot-licking expertise unseen since Versailles, it struck me. The sheer, simple elegance of it. The "exploit".

The exploit is shame.

Our representatives -- and to a great degree we as a culture -- are completely buffaloed by shamelessness. .

We have been in a continual and silent Constitutional Crisis since November, 2000 when the more than half the voters were told to shut up and take it as the elite opinionmakers were afraid of the temper tantrum that would be thrown by the Right if they were not given what they wanted. This series of crisi have been perpetuated by the unstated threat that when everyone's cards are on the table, we are off to legal and constitutional Calvinball where the outcome was first dependent on what was in Justice O'Connor's Wheaties that morning, and now relies on who has most recently stroked the ego of Justice Kennedy.

The Bush Doctrine of governance has been to continually make maximal claims, disregard previous governing and social norms, and dear everyone else to ante up and stop them while at the same time attempting and usually succeeding in fracturing the potential opposition. Once policy has been put into place, the Bush administration has used the substantial powers of the White House and a weak party to stall and prevaricate. This process has been repeatedly aided by a corrupt and ineffectual political and media elite to aid in the furtherance of his goals.

The democratic steps of stopping the stupidity are reliant upon social norms of cooperation and shame. After the President's party was strongly rebuked during the November elections, the typical and expected response would have been to incorporate at least some of the views of the new majorities instead of sending another 30,000 troops to Iraq and seeking to run out the clock. Yesterday's commuting of Scooter Libby's prison sentence is another step in the same process. The move by President Bush was legal and constitutional despite also being impeachment worthy.

The coming battle over subpoenas concerning the politicization of the Justice Department will be another leg of this quiet constitutional crisis. Kagro X at Daily Kos has an eerie and coherent prediction:

Yesterday's action also changes the post-subpoena calculus. Whereas previously it was thought that the Vice President might direct the Department of Justice to simply decline to prosecute any contempt charges referred to the U.S. Attorney (or even file suit separately to enjoin such an action), now it must be asked whether it isn't a strategically wiser choice to let the prosecutions go forward, in slow motion.

Why not let the prosecutions proceed, if at a snail's pace? It eats up considerably more of the time remaining on the clock, and leaves Congress holding the bag, able only to complain about the pace. And at the end of the road, if there's a conviction, simply pull out the Scooter Libby playbook. Appeal every facet of the case, and when your luck finally runs out and someone has to pay the piper, the Vice President can simply commute the sentence or pardon them. VoilĂ ! It's almost time to escape out the back door, and everyone goes home scot free. Congress never gets the documents or testimony they've demanded, it's subpoena power is forever after in question, the Vice President's political opposition is rendered impotent, and his political loyalists are once again reminded of the special favor and power their loyalty buys.

We have long since past the point where a healthy popular-political-media system's immune system would have been activated. The Bush administration has used the fear of calling out shame as a rapier to tatter our internal mores, values and cohesion while knowing that there are not sixty seven votes to convict. However the lack of votes should not matter. Principles are important even if a victory is not guaranteed in the defense of those principles.

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