Once again Nancy Pelosi and the Congressional Democrats are bearing the brunt of the burden imposed on them by... the often COWERING SENATE DEMOCRATS, who only rarely, if at all, used their FILIBUSTER POWERS to OBSTRUCT Bush nominees and policies in the past 6 years, while such "OBSTRUCTIVE" use of the filibuster is already a commonplace under 3 months of this new Republican minority senate.
Now this excellent article by Jim Lobe and William LeoGrande of The American Prospect magazine connects some more dots on Republican hypocrisy and criminality, stretching back the almost 3 decades to the Iran-Contra scandal. Sure enough, current administration neo-con Lies-to-War hawk ELLIOT ABRAMS is at the center of this diabolical history, Abrams having touted the assassinations, death-squads, and democracy-voiding coups of the Reagan-Bush (Sr.) Iran-Contra era, just as glibly as he has recently been a chief architect, along with Douglas Feith, Richard Perle, and Paul Wolfowitz (et al) of the Lies-to-War for Bush Jr's invasion and conquest of Iraq.
And, then as now, DICK CHENEY and NEWT GINGRICH were there immediately behind Abrams to bolster his case for US regional leadership by death squads, bribery and voter suppression; and then as now, Gingrich and Cheney had unfettered access to the US media. And then, as now, the oh-so-wise "Conventional Wisdom" at the top tiers of the Democratic Party held that America's best interest would be to allow the Republican architects of death-squad diplomacy to proceed with their careers barely impeded - AS THE SENATE DEMOCRATS refused (or were unable) to block CONVICTED WATERGATE FELON Eliott Abrams' REAPPOINTMENT to senior levels of government in the Bush-Cheney administration.
Ms. Pelosi, the new Speaker of the House, might be wise to take a page from the Republican playbook: THE BEST DEFENSE is a take-no-prisoners ATTACK-and-DESTROY offense. The Republicans can create Democratic SCANDALS out of thin air - file-gate and Whitewater and Travel-office-gate and LINCOLN BEDROOM! - while they can simultaneously make the hundreds-of-billions of dollars of S&L debacle VANISH from the front pages of media coverage, much less more obscure crimes and criminality like the Iran-Contra scandal, the BCCI scandal, the Iraq-gate WMD precursors for Saddam scandals, or even the recent massive, systematic, and illegal VOTER DISENFRANCHISEMENT (and corrupt voting machiens) scandals.
Ms. Pelosi and the House and Senate Democratic leadership and staffers would do well to read the first chapter of Robert Parry's book "Secrecy and Privilege," in which Parry documents the way that incoming President Bill Clinton cluelessly abandoned and suppressed ON-GOING CRIMINAL INVESTIGATIONS into Republican crimes and malfeasance. This is the relatively unknown chapter of the "Whitewater," Monica, and Impeachment of President Clinton scandals; that in return for going easy on Republican malfeasance and underminning investigations into Republican criminality, President Clinton ONLY EMBOLDENED HIS ENEMIES, and gave them the very soap-box and media access ("Moral Values!") they would need to amplify his (Clinton's) faux pas into an on-going string of slow-burn scandals and tear down his administration.
At one point, we (in our previous blog manifestation) called for Nancy Pelosi to RESIGN as House Minority Leader, because Ms. Pelosi was, like Bill Clinton before her, trying to MINIMIZE Republican malfeasance as an election issue. Fortunately THE VERY LAST VESTIGES of an independent US government bureaucracy kicked in, when the Bush-Cheney-Rove White House was UNABLE TO DERAIL the Abramoff, Duke Cunningham, Bob Ney, Ken Lay, and Jeff Skilling (Enron) prosecutions, each of which led to one or more FELONY CONVICTIONS, many from close to or within the Bush-Cheney White House. (Although the web-master of many of those scandals, White House Political Affairs chief KARL ROVE, was able to duck and weave his way out of a perjury indictiment and conviction that his fellow senior White House advisor, VP Chief of Staff Lewis "Scooter" Libby, was convicted of after the 2006 elections.)
Since those scandal CONVICTIONS helped put the Democratic "outsider" candidates over the top in mid-term election 2006, thereby giving the incumbent Democrats the majority in the Congress, we have been surprised and encouraged by the tenacity of Speaker Pelosi, even if her crew has, for now, put a muzzle on Representative John Conyers outspoken calls for confronting the Bush-Cheney White House.
In sum: 1.) Republican anti-democracy criminality stretches back 3 or more decades. 2.) Today, many of the same players from the Iran-Contra scandal - Newt Gingrich, Dick Cheney, and Eliott Abrams - are not only major players in the US government, but they are even far more powerful than they were back then, despite their own string of scandals and the fact that Abrams was actually convicted for his role in the Iran-Contra obstruction of justice. 3.) The Democrats have a long history of SHORT-CHANGING investigations into Republican malfeasance, or wrist-slapping those caught red-handed or convicted - in the case of President Clinton, EMPOWERING Republicans to come right back against his own administration and supporters with a vile stew of half-baked accusations and fake scandals; 4.) The Republicans WILL come after Speaker Nancy Pelosi's efforts to try and provide an alternative to Bush's "Black hole of Iraq" budget-busting and military-trashing war.
Given that all the above are inevitabilities, Speaker Pelosi could at least make it interesting... Simply take the muzzle off of Chairman Conyer's Committee, COORDINATE the compilation of evidence from other House and Senate Committees (Chairman Waxman's committee, and investigations into Enron, disenfranchisement, lies-to-war, and even 9-11) - and then TAKE YOUR CASE of Republican Malfeasance TO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE. Daily, Energetically, and Forcefully. Put Karl Rove on the hot seat, and make Bush and Cheney HIDE behind Executive Privilege - and even drag up Vice President Cheney's ONGOING FINANCIAL TIES TO HALLIBURTON, and as well the minutes and persons of his 2001 "Secret Energy Task Force" that in all probability (now there's an understatement!) examined the invasion of Iraq.
The Speaker should realize she has nothing to loose. The Republcans are, as we speak, cranking up their "Swift Boat Smear Mob" against the Speaker, and before anyone even heard of "Swift Boats", they used similar tactics to DRAG DOWN AND IMPEACH A SITTING PRESIDENT, Bill CLinton.
"Cry Havoc and Let Slip your dogs of Congressional Investigations!" Madame Speaker. America and the world deserve SOME alternative to the Black Hole of Baghdad, and the minions who brought America to its brink.
The flap over Nancy Pelosi's Syria trip echoes a 20-year-old fight with a previous Democratic House Speaker -- and is being driven by the same right-wing Republican hawks.
By William M. LeoGrande and Jim Lobe
Web Exclusive: 04.09.07
Nancy Pelosi had better watch her back. The last time a Democratic Speaker of the House tried to help extricate the United States from a stalemated war, it cost him his job.
Twenty years ago, congressional Democrats rebelled against President Ronald Reagan's covert "contra" war to overthrow the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, threatening to cut off the funds for it, just as they are now threatening to cut off funds for the war in Iraq. Then, as now, a Republican president was determined to stay the course despite mounting evidence that the war was unwinnable and only diplomacy could end it. With the executive branch bereft of ideas on how to escape the quagmire but dead-set against engaging its perceived adversaries, Congressional leaders stepped into the breach.
Speaker Jim Wright, with the quiet support of Republican realists, took an active role in support of the 1987 Central American Peace Accord sponsored by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, whose efforts won him the Nobel Peace Prize that year. Despite the Reagan administration's bitter denunciation of the Arias plan, Wright not only endorsed it, he worked actively to bring the Sandinistas together with their opponents to make the plan work. For this he was vilified by Reagan officials, foremost among them Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs Elliott Abrams, who accused Wright of staging "an unbelievable melodrama," when he met with Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega. "This was not forward movement," Abrams charged. "This was screwing up the process."
On Capitol Hill, Abrams's charges were echoed by Congressmen Dick Cheney and Newt Gingrich, who launched a campaign that eventually forced Wright to resign for alleged ethical lapses. "My role in the peace process contributed more than any other one thing to the determination of the Republican rightwing to destroy my effectiveness," Wright wrote later. "The determination to try to destroy my personal character originated with people like Gingrich, Elliott Abrams, and Dick Cheney."
Last week, Speaker Nancy Pelosi traveled to the Middle East, stopping in Syria to meet with President Bashar al-Assad -- much to the dismay of President Bush, Cheney, and Abrams, who is now deputy national security adviser and the White House's top aide on the Middle East. As a second-tier member of the Axis of Evil, Syria is on the State Department's list of countries that support international terrorism, and the administration's policy toward Damascus has been one of hostility and isolation. Unfortunately, Syria's cooperation is probably indispensable for stabilizing the security situation in neighboring Iraq-- a reality that led the bipartisan Iraq Study Group to recommend that Washington directly engage both Syria and Iran diplomatically, just as Republican realists twenty years ago supported dialogue with Nicaragua. President Bush has ignored that recommendation, as he has ignored many of the Study Group's conclusions.
Pelosi has pledged that congressional Democrats will push for implementation of the Study Group's recommendations even if the president will not. Her diplomacy in Damascus has put her on a collision course with administration hardliners like Cheney and Abrams. Cheney blasted Pelosi's "bad behavior," and a Washington Post editorial called her mission "foolish " -- echoes of how the Post denigrated Jim Wright's efforts twenty years ago as "reckless."
As the ranking Republican congressman on the Iran-Contra Committee that investigated the Reagan administration's secret arms sales to Iran and funding of the Nicaraguan contras, Cheney defended Reagan's officials, including Abrams, who lied to Congress and ignored the law. Cheney argued that presidential power in foreign policy is essentially unlimited and that Congress can and should do nothing to constrain it -- a view he has faithfully carried with him into the White House.
No president likes to see Congress take an active role in foreign policy, especially when the two branches are at odds over what policy should be. But although the Constitution gives the president the leading role in international affairs, it does not give him an exclusive mandate. When a president insists on pursuing policies that, despite mounting costs, show no promise of success and have lost the support of the American people, he should not be surprised to find Congress becoming more assertive.
In the 1980s, Cheney and Abrams made clear their contempt for Congress and disdain for diplomacy. For them, foreign policy took on the tenor of a moral crusade, making compromise anathema. Despite their best efforts, Congress cut the funding for Reagan's wars in Nicaragua and El Salvador, eventually forcing President George H. W. Bush to embrace the peace plans that Reagan's hawks abhorred. The plans worked, and the wars ended on terms that safeguarded U.S. interests. The hardline crusaders like Cheney and Abrams, despite their moral certitude, turned out to be wrong. Twenty years later, they still think diplomacy is for sissies, they still think Congress has no legitimate role in foreign policy, and they are still wrong.
William M. LeoGrande is dean of the School of Public Affairs at American University in Washington, DC, and author of Our Own Backyard: The United States in Central America, 1977-1992. Jim Lobe is the chief of the Washington bureau of Inter Press Service (IPS).
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