In regard to Rep. Mark Foley’s improper e-mails to teenage congressional pages, the House ethics committee has approved subpoenas and promised to go “wherever the evidence takes us.” Which could mean that the buck might actually stop somewhere, as it did on that rare occasion when it slammed into Tom Delay. Okay, maybe, maybe not. Seeing is believing.
Meanwhile, Tom Delay’s man, Speaker Dennis Hastert, after exposure and pressure and much hesitation, finally said he accepted responsibility for failing to investigate the complaints against Foley. He told us, “Ultimately…the buck stops here,” a rather famous phrase he had the nerve to borrow from our flinty past president, Harry S. Truman; though Hastert displays none of Truman’s flint, a president who had the fortitude to fire General Douglas MacArthur, the hero of the Pacific war and father of post-war Japan, who recklessly wanted to widen the war in Korea by invading China.
Compare Truman to President Bush, a man who up to now has evaded the buck, who edged aside the experienced general, Eric K. Shinseki, who (like Powell) sanely wanted to commit several hundred thousand troops to Rumsfeld’s Iraqi shock-and-awe, to handle the post invasion phase of that unnecessary war, for which we mostly abandoned the still important one in Afghanistan. The then deputy defense secretary, Paul D. Wolfowitz, attacked Shinseki’s estimate as “wildly off the mark.” This same sage also said, in 2003: there was no history of ethnic strife in Iraq. Really? Well the buck never got near him. Mr. Wolfowitz is now safely out of the way in his job as the president of the World Bank.
In contrast to allowing bucks to stop, this administration and its Republican congress have shown exceptional expertise in the knee-jerk passing of bucks.
Example: Republicans are saying the Dems knew all along what was going on with Foley and the young pages, and waited ‘til just before the midterm elections to reveal the scandal for political gain. (And the GOP wouldn’t?)
True, but the Dems were shopping the Foley e-mails to the media for months, not days, whether for gain or not, while the usually sanctimonious and ultimately hypocritical Republicans were scrambling to cover up their asses as well as the story, to protect Foley’s congressional seat. ABC News finally did the right thing by going public with the story.
Foley’ ex-chief of staff, Kirk Fordham, who wanted the buck to stop, said he brought Foley’s e-mails to Hastert’s attention as early as three years ago, but Hastert doesn’t recall this. Hastert spokesman Ron Bonjean, said anyone guilty of improper communications with pages should “be fired or subjected to a vote of expulsion.” Okay, but then we have congressional officials who cover up for the transgressors. Will the buck land on their desks?
Our cynical President Bush recently stood side-by-side with Speaker Hastert and said he was proud to be there, and that the country was “better off” with Hastert as Speaker; while at the same time about half the country was thinking that teenagers are brought to Congress to attend school, to perform errands as pages in what should be the sanctuary of the congressional chamber. They are not there to be seduced or groped by weird adult officials, and ignored by those politically motivated pass-the-buck creeps who wish to turn away from these monumental ethical failures.
Writing for the New Republic’s online “The Plank,” Ryan Lizza wrote that the GOP congressional leadership continued to look the other way in regard to Foley’s indiscretions, and that in early 2006 Foley had wanted to retire to become a lobbyist on K Street; but fearing the loss of the House, Karl Rove insisted Foley run for re-election. If he didn’t, Rove warned Foley, it might negatively impact his lobbying career. On the other hand, if he dutifully served for two more years it would “enhance his success” as a lobbyist.
No doubt the soon to be exposed Foley mourned the loss of the greatly expanded income he had to sacrifice from the Republican’s lucrative quid pro quo lobby-the-legislative system we so lovingly call “democracy at work;” part of that D.C. Beltway scam with its endless loop through which retiring well-connected administration staffers, legislators, military generals, CIA and FBI intels, for whom, whatever their crimes and misdemeanors, the buck will rarely stop. Those who choose to will move seamlessly into corporate boards, corporate lobbies and/or consultancies; the total of which is an inbred multi-billion dollar world, which exists solely to feed itself, and has little to do with enhancing the lives of American taxpayers who are daily forced to swim upstream against the one-way tide of GOP economic policies.
But poor Foley: duty called. Or rather, Rove threatened.
Revising history by passing another buck: Republican senator John McCain, a man whose moderation, manifest honesty, and personal dignity I had long admired, has, due apparently to his own presidential ambitions, courted those who are very far to the right of what he used to be, and drawn himself closer to President Bush by physically hugging him (the man who previously trashed him) and by helping the president to pass another big very big buck: the blaming of Bush’s disastrous North Korea policy on President Clinton.
McCain said that President Clinton’s 1994 “Agreed Framework” between the U.S. and N. Korea had been a total failure. The senator further claimed that the warnings the Clinton White House issued to N. Korea, such as not to eject the International Atomic Agency and not to remove fuel rods from their reactor, merely allowed N. Korea to ignore such admonitions and were subsequently rewarded with more talks.
And you know how dangerous it is to just talk.
The truth of it, though, is that Clinton didn’t pass the buck. The “Agreed Framework” actually worked for the eight years Clinton was in office; an agreement that prevented the N. Koreans from producing plutonium and developing nuclear weapons, an agreement President Bush foolishly abandoned in 2002, a Clinton policy which Secretary Of State Powell endorsed as correct.
McCain was having a convivial chat with adoring Chris Mathews on the telly before a university audience, when he was questioned about the Military Commissions Act Of 2006, just signed by the president, the president who passed the buck to senior officers regarding his having given permission to torture, the officers who then passed the buck to sergeants, corporals, and privates, who had no one to pass it to. The senator said it was a good compromise that precluded torture. Did he really believe that? Truly? And noticeably, nothing was said about the loss of habius corpus, the debasement of our constitutional rights. Does the senator’s ambitions prevent him from seeing that American citizens can be scooped up and detained without legal representation? Who will he pass the buck to if he is challenged about signing on to this loss of an individual’s right to face his or her accuser?
Maybe he should listen to George Washington U. Professor Of Constitutional Law, Jonathan Turley, who appeared on MSNBC’s Countdown, who said: “…people have no idea how significant this is. What really a time of shame this is for the American system. What the Congress did and what the president signed today essentially revokes over 200 years of American principals and values.”
Today we have a disconnected Bush awash in insoluble problems, now avoiding his “staying the course” while trying to appear to be open to talk, to listen to military advisors and older sages (think James Baker), to be engaging allies, some of whom are the “old Europe” that he and Rumsfeld and Cheney had so arrogantly dismissed during their unilateral blunder. One can imagine the president now wildly thrashing about looking for others to which he can pass the host of bucks that threaten to slam into him like a barrage of artillery. If not now, later, in the written history of America, if we’re still free to write it.
In closing, I was reading a N.Y. Times book review of the Cold War secretary of state, Dean Acheson, by Robert L. Beisner. The review was penned by Henry A. Kissinger who at its end wrote of the theme of an Acheson speech at the War College in August 1951: “There was not ‘one more river to cross’ but ‘countless problems stretching into the future.’ … Americans must reconcile themselves to ‘limited objectives’ and work in congress with others, for an essential part of American power was the ‘ability to evoke support from others–an ability quite as important as the capacity to compel.’” (Italics mine).
You didn’t have to pass the buck when you had that kind of thinking.