Stonewalling: Final Tactic Of Culpable Government Actors
Those of us who were adults in 1974 when Richard Nixon’s presidency came crashing down on that unforgettable hot August day are surely familiar with stonewalling. For more than a year, Nixon and his cohorts H.R. “Bob” Haldeman, John Ehrlichman, and several other top aides, had engaged with increased frequency in the practice, under growing pressure from the press, until, with his back to the wall, Nixon’s only defense for withholding inculpating information regarding the Watergate break-in were misguided claims of “Executive Privilege.”
Today, thirty-three years later, we are witnessing those same tactics coming from George W. Bush, and Company, another administration
that has abused the Powers of the Presidency, refusing to be held accountable either to Congress or the American People. However, accountability is the indispensable element in the democratic equation, without which all other elements must fail. Without genuine and meaningful accountability there cannot be an informed electorate, without which the operations of a representative democracy are not possible, and the Separation of Powers between executive, legislative and judicial branches of government become obscure and irrelevant.
Those who hold high office, having sworn an oath of allegiance to the Constitution, yet willfully committing acts in violation of that document, are nothing short of treasonous. Treason may take many forms, but always it is a breach of faith, a betrayal of public trust. Treason is not a one-way street, involving only the acts of individuals against the state. It may be the conduct of the state, through agents
empowered to act, under color of law, who would deny the lawful rights of individuals whose well-being they have been entrusted to preserve and protect.
In reflection, Nixon’s initial transgressions seem relatively minor as compared with those of Bush and Cheney. Yes, he authorized a burglary at the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee housed at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C., a totally unlawful, and needless, as it turned out, enterprise, given the historic landslide by which he defeated George McGovern. It was an act analogous
to corporate espionage.
However, how loathsome was that act as compared with the acts of a president who knowingly misled Congress and the American People into a war, from which the only certain gain to be derived was the enormous financial profits collected by Halliburton Corporation, an entity with which Dick Cheney is intimately connected. To date, nearly 3,500 American lives have been lost, 25,000 Americans have been seriously injured, and almost half a trillion dollars have been spent, with no end in sight.
In addition to the enormous loss of human and financial resources, the pain and grief visited upon tens of thousands of families of injured and disabled American military and civilian personnel, is catastrophic. Then, there is the terrible loss of reputation and face our nation has suffered in the eyes of friends and foe alike, brought on by our use of torture and our detainment, without due process, without charge or legal representation, of hundreds, if not thousands, of individuals. It will be decades before respect for our country abroad will be restored, if ever. The current administration’s treason, its betrayal of the American People’s trust, is not limited to Iraq and international affairs.
Here, at home, the Justice Department scandal, the politicizing of Justice, and the politically-motivated firings of United States Attorneys,
coupled with warrantless wiretaps and searches, have reduced our federal government to the use of tactics more like those
of a military junta, all in the name of the “War On Terror”.
Messrs. Bush and Cheney must surely know that they will not stonewall their way out of the trouble they are in. Advising Harriet Miers, former White House Counsel, and proposed appointee to the Supreme Court, as well as Sara M. Taylor, the former White House Political Director, not to testify before the House and Senate Judiciary Committees last week, based upon Executive Privilege, will go a long way toward precipitating a Constitutional crisis.
It would appear that Bush is both stupid, and stubborn, two traits which, when combined in one person, particularly one who is entrusted with extreme power, can be very destructive. Let us pray that more reasonable and enlightened heads will prevail shortly, and that the kind of ‘rocky road’ our nation endured some thirty-three years ago, will not be the experience of the next eighteen months.