The Essential Myth
The shocked reaction to the abrupt dismissal of eight U.S. Attorneys points to the essence of our current political problems. The broad based political reaction to the Gonzales firings contains one critical assumption: this is an aberrant act. Something terribly wrong has taken place and the political establishment rises to defend the system.
That’s the set up and that’s the story. The set up is a lie. The firings are normal procedure. The bipartisan reaction is not so much to the injustice of it all. It’s a reaction to the total absence of art and discretion.
The system wasn’t abused so much as exposed
How did the story emerge? Eight U.S. Attorneys are fired on December 7, 2006. We don’t hear much until early March when one of them, David Iglesias, speaks up and cries foul. After his complaints, the sacked eight speak up to varying degrees and its game on.
The story ignited when the fired attorneys complained. Before that, there was no outcry, little attention, and no Republican demands for the head of Alberto Gonzales. With a bit more skill and a better retirement package in place, there may well have been no complaints and no story.
After all, they only had to take care of eight people. But they didn’t and the controversy arose. Now we have a huge scandal posing as a threat to the system; a scandal that arose as a personnel matter (I didn’t deserve to be fired!). If this is such an outrage, why the lag time to outrage?
Under normal conditions, the story would have a gratifying final act. Gonzales would be censured in some way, retire himself, and then be replaced by someone who would do exactly the same things he’d been doing, but in a more discrete fashion. There’s just one problem. We don’t have business as usual with the Bush-Cheney junta. Their profound arrogance and self-centeredness leads to the sloppy implementation of standard operating procedure which gives the system a lot of bad press.
The Justice Department is just a small fragment of the larger picture of the administration’s political strategies that use the federal bureaucracy to advance their goal driven agenda of power and control.
The Hatch Act regulating the political activity of federal employees is clear
These federal and DC employees may not:
· use official authority or influence to interfere with an election
· engage in political activity while: on duty; in a government office; wearing an official uniform; or using a government vehicle.
Real Evidence of a Real Scandal or Business as Usual?
The General Services Administration (GSA), an independent federal agency, exists to “help federal agencies better serve the public by offering, at best value, superior workplaces, expert solutions, acquisition services and management policies.” One key function is buying, building and running federal facilities. Why would the chief administrator and the regional directors care about the 2006 midterm election results and the impact on Republicans? What does this have to do with administrating personnel, contracts, and physical plant? Nothing.
Yet Lurita Alexis Doan, (above) GSA Chief, held a teleconference for her key administrators who heard a White House political operative present an analysis of the 2006 election results. According to multiple accounts, the White House speaker suggested methods to leverage Republican advantage in 2008 by linking new GSA facilities to incumbent and prospective Republican candidates. This was not a secret presentation at the Bohemian Grove or a confidential e-mail handled by a private Republican information service provider. It was a routine part of the political process. No big deal: until Cong. Henry Waxman (D-CA) made an issue out of it recently.
Will this be treated as another threat to the system? Will the system be saved by replacing Ms. Doan with a truly independent chief for the independent federal agency, GSA? Or is this just business as usual?
The focus on particular illegal acts, the latest scandals, masks routinely illegal uses of government. The Hatch Act regulates political activity by federal employees. It is well known. Political appointees like the White House presenter at GSA are no less aware than career federal employees. Violating it in a significant way is an act of informed choice. The casual and routine violation of this clear set of prohibitions shows how little the rules actually mean to those in power.
Same Story, New Actors
The abuse of the federal system for coordinated efforts that have nothing to do with the people’s business has been going on for decades.
Nixon was not one to miss a political opportunity. His relentless pursuit of victory in the 1972 campaign included his old dirty tricks of defamation and polarization. Incumbency allowed his true inclinations to surface through his willingness to use federal employees, appointed or careerists, as though they were personal rather than public servants.
After rolling to victory over war hero and peace advocate George McGovern, Nixon’s narcissism was florid. He demanded and got the resignations of cabinet members and key staff, then rehired those he chose to keep shortly thereafter. This made the point perfectly clear. They all worked at the pleasure of the president; an offensive notion that reduces the federal employee to the role of a courtesan.
How many times have you heard someone say that your government, the one you legitimize through your votes and support through your taxes, belongs to whomever happens to occupy the White House; that they can use it at their sole discretion. They don’t need to say it. This assumption is now embedded in our political environment. It’s tacitly accepted.
All of the following acts have influenced elections. They all involved the use of federal employees. They were all deceptive and misleading on one level or another. And none of them truly benefited the people. Only those in power benefited from the policies that generated political and financial support. Here are the products of election driven politics:
- Use of the Secretary of the Treasury to strong arm campaign contributions.
- Hasty attempts to settle the Viet Nam War Paris negotiations right before the 1972 elections and the deadly consequences when the efforts failed.
- Willful overestimation of Soviet strength and resilience in the early 1970’s when intelligence reports argued for just the opposite interpretation.
- Deregulation, biased regulation and other industry specific financial benefits in anticipation of or as payment for campaign contributions (e.g., savings and loans, financial services, securities; transportation, etc.).
- Starting the Iraq war based on information known to be false.
- Hiding and censoring scientific information critical to public safety and health.
- Preventing a full, rigorous, and well funded investigation of 911.
- No bid, no performance contracts in the billions of dollars provided to aid New Orleans and other areas hit by Katrina and the chaos that persists.
Each of these actions had a specific political benefit tied to an election. They perpetuated the power of those committing the violations of law, trust and decency.
While outrageous and pervasive, the actions just listed are a routine Hatch Act violation: the use of official authority or influence to interfere with an election. The financial cost to the citizens of the United States from just this partial list is in the trillions of dollars. The human costs are incalculable.
“Thousands of low-income, working-class, African American families have been displaced by the Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO) in favor of several big corporate developers’ desire to cash in on the tragedy following Hurricane Katrina through building mixed income housing.” Stop Evicting Katrina Survivors
Many lower income families are now without a home, despite HUD’s $3.8 billion in renovation contracts in 2006. The 200 thousand evacuees are still away from home and unable to vote. Who benefits? Photograph
Back to the Fired U.S. Attorneys: The True Scandal Writ Small with Citizens as the Chorus
The April 1, 2007 Washington Post reiterated the official set up story: “No other administration in contemporary times has had such a clear pattern of filling chief prosecutors’ jobs with its own staff members, said experts on U.S. attorney’s offices.”
No other administration … had such a clear pattern are the operative terms. They all had clear patterns. In fact, just from the partial list of high crimes presented earlier, it’s obvious that the patterns of most administrations were quite clear. You do a major industry segment a big favor and they return the favor by providing big contributions. You start a big war based on outright lies and you win elections because Who will oppose a war president? You create a crime out of nothing, the 24 incident voter fraud fiction. Preventing the nonexistent crime requires regulations that deny the votes of hundreds of thousands of minority citizens. You say you’re preventing a crime as you commit the worst of crimes. You own the system. Even contested elections do little good because we’re simply replacing one set of willing actors with another.
We’ve reached the point where the fictions enabling political and election fraud have become accepted reality. Citizens are given no choice but to take these events as a legitimate part of the political dynamic. Warily we react as if there might really be a reason to invade Iraq. The presentation of such outrageous lies as truth plus the recursive support of a captive corporate media make it seem like there are two sides to the issue. Maybe there is some connection between Saddam and Al Qaeda? Even the president’s denial of his own lie about weapons of mass destruction has no impact on the larger fiction. The process is grinding and relentless based on theatrics, repetition, and emotionally charged, fear based lies.
We become actors in the process of deceiving ourselves by simply having the decency to assume no one would be monstrous enough to, for example: start a war based on lies; deliberately let the citizens of New Orleans starve for days and suffer years of exile and deprivation; conceal the full story of 911; deregulate business in a way that causes direct harm to the public; withhold scientific information vital to individuals and the public at large, etc.
We’ve become so jaded that we accept the corruption of political leadership as being just the way things are, denying even a productive role for cynicism and doubt. It’s an elegant and deadly trap. There’s either a reason for the malfeasance or the malfeasance is an inevitable part of the system. Just accept it. We are both intended and willing victims of the system.
It’s time to say the obvious. The misuse of the federal government and federal employees to influence elections and maintain power pervades the entire political process. The individual scandals that come forward with such flourish are somehow handled to preserve the system. They are, in fact, the way the system routinely operates from top to bottom. Government authority and resources are used to maintain and perpetuate power for those who take from the many and give to the few; with full knowledge of the benefits reaped by a chosen few.
This is totally unacceptable to a civilized people. We deride banana republics yet we slip on our own peels again and again. It’s time to stop sleep walking. The corporate media has not and will not go beyond the bounds of contrived fiction and staged kabuki drama. It’s left to citizens to spread the word.
We don’t need to save this system. We need to end it and begin again with policies that benefit all Americans and provide fair and accurate elections. Elections free of corporate money, machines, and machinations are the best path to elected officials who understand and obey the law, no matter how tempting or convenient the opportunities for fraud might seem.
Many thanks to The Scholar for his contributions to the basic concept of this article.
Permission to reprint granted provided there is a link to this article in “Scoop” and attribution of authorship.