Friday, December 29, 2006
Saving Us From Ourselves
A reader reminded me that Atrios wrote this other other day and I think it's worth discussing a little bit more:
As Yglesias says, the only alternative to a full and blanket pardon wasn't putting Nixon in chains, though that was a possibility. The important thing was to find out the truth. Our elites repeatedly redefine "getting past it" as "sweeping it under the rug" based on their apparent opinion of themselves as necessary moral and spiritual leaders for the riffraff. If they are revealed to be greatly flawed then without them as a shining beacon to light the way the riffraff will go astray and the country will collapse.
They are our betters and we need them they think, and so their class must be preserved even if the occasional unpleasantness must be swept under the rug.
There is a very recent example of that very thing. On election night 2000 as the CNN crew sat in the studio discussing whether Al Gore was going to retract his concession, what comes out of John King's mouth?
SHAW: Were I Al Gore, I don't think I'd be that terribly much in a hurry to rush out there and make the concession. This has to be one of the most difficult things in this man's life.
KING: Intensely frustrating. You know, historically, when Richard Nixon lost in 1960, he was urged by many people to challenge the vote in Illinois. And he decided in the end not to do it because he said he didn't want to create a constitutional crisis.
Yes, that good man Richard Nixon waa a big enough man to spare the country such an ordeal. Would Al Gore do the same?
The next day:
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): The Gore campaign points to the highly unlikely results in Palm Beach County, Florida, which suggests a high level of voter confusion over the ballot. Florida has already undertaken a recount as required by law when the results are so close. If the Gore campaign undertakes a legal challenge to the results in Florida, that could open the floodgates to legal challenges by the Bush campaign all over the country.
SCHNEIDER: What we are seeing is a dangerous politicization of the vote-counting process. Each candidate has to ask himself: How much is winning this election really worth? Is it worth creating a constitutional crisis? Is it worth undermining your ability to unite the country?
Soon, we had this:
The Bush administration argued from the beginning that: "Further recounts could unnecessarily delay the elections process, potentially leading to a federal constitutional crisis."
A week later, we had worked our way up to this:
WOODRUFF: Well, it has been a full week since Election Day and there is still no official word on the winner. Coming up, our Jeff Greenfield takes on the question of whether Election 2000 has reached crisis stage.
JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: "Constitutional crisis." It's a tempting phrase to utter. It carries with it its own sense of importance, like "defining moment." But is this a crisis? Could it turn into one? Well, to use another tempting phrase, it depends upon what the meaning of crisis is.
(voice-over): Now here's a real crisis in the making. October, 1973: President Nixon fires Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox in the midst of his investigation into Watergate. The attorney general and his top deputy leave rather than fire Cox. Federal agents seal off the special prosecutor's office. Could a president shut off an inquiry into his own behavior? It didn't happen.
A firestorm of public pressure forced Nixon to name a successor, Leon Jaworski, who demanded of Nixon those famous secret tape recordings. And that could have triggered a real constitutional crisis when a unanimous Supreme Court ordered Nixon to turn over the tapes. Suppose he had refused. One branch of government defying the order of another. But it didn't happen. Nixon turned the tapes over. The smoking gun of a cover-up was disclosed and the president resigned.
But this? Not even close, yet. What you have so far is the messy, inefficient business of vote counts. Instead of troops in the capitol, you've got lawyers in the courts. Instead of mobs in the street, street theater, and folks with a little too much time on their hands.
(on camera): So, could this turn into a crisis? Of course we're not talking about anyone seizing political power or some adversary from abroad sailing up the Potomac, but we could be talking about a transfer of power tainted by charges of foul play.
An angry challenge to the electoral vote when the new Congress convenes in January; a bitter refusal of the losing side to acknowledge the victor's right to govern; a new Congress that, for all the talk of cooperation, is frozen into inaction by a sense of icy bitterness that's grown over the past 20 years.
A crisis? Maybe not. But as an unhappy ending to the end of all of this, that will do.
Oh my God! Finally this:
SIMON: But back to this question about frenzy and orgy. I think really the one phrase that is overused and seriously overused by the media is constitutional crisis.
SIMON: We do not have a constitutional crisis. A constitutional crisis...
KURTZ: We could have one by Tuesday.
SIMON: ... No we won't. A constitutional crisis is that one of these guys, Bush or Gore, says, "I'm not listening to the Supreme Court. I'm showing up on January 20. And everyone who believes in me show up with me."
SIMON: If Nixon hadn't turned over the tapes, that's a constitutional crisis. Everybody here is following the rule of law. It is the opposite of a crisis.
EDWARDS: Well, I'd like to disagree a little bit...
KURTZ: ... go ahead, Tamala.
EDWARDS: ... first of all to your point about television and do we have a medium that's fast enough? To pick up Wayne's point about "Pulp Fiction." I'll just take the soundtrack. I think if we had some great music, that would make this better.
But in terms of constitutional crisis, I agree. I think that was overused and was used very quickly. But I do think that we're starting to get to that point. What happens if we have a court sanctioned set of Gore electors and a legislative set of Bush electors? What do we do? That's a crisis.
It became an article of faith that if this "went on too long" the country would fall apart and blood would run in the streets as the rabble completely lost its collective mind and stormed the castle. The wisemen had to END THIS NOW. We just couldn't take a chance on counting all the votes. It was much too dangerous.
The Supreme Court took exactly that tack with one of the most egregious decisions in the nation's history. Judge Gerald Posner even said that they were right to do it because if Gore had won the recount Tom Delay would have refused to acknowledge his electors and we would have had ... a constitutional crisis.
The elites are always protecting us against the rabble, but they never quite say who that rabble is, exactly. Nowadays, it's pretty clear, isn't it? There were Freepers standing outside the vice presidential residence screaming "get out of Cheney's house" throughout the recount. Roger Stone was down there in Florida getting ready to call in the Cuban Community and unleash the dirty tricks squad. The "bourgoeis riot" was just a little taste of what was to come. So, it's pretty clear what the crisis was that the pundits and the political establishment were so keen to save us from --- the crisis that would ensue if the impeaching, undemocratic, rabid Republican thugs were denied their victory. Don't make trouble. Everything will be fine. We know these people. They're the grown-ups.
The political and media establishment does not trust the constitution or the people, it's that simple.
After all was said and done, Jon Stewart said it best:
LARRY KING: OK, what happens if the meddlesome "Miami Herald," say in January brings forth its own vote and then tabulates it and shows you here's what the dimples were, here's what the chads were, and in one of them, Gore won? Would that cause a crisis then?
STEWART: Absolutely a crisis.
KING: And what would happen?
STEWART: The same crisis -- nothing would happen. He'd be the president in the same way that Clinton got impeached, he was still the president. We're not a nation on the precipice of any constitutional disaster other than -- you know what we have? We have a pundit disaster. We're out of pundits. They've been used up now, and they have nothing left to say.
Oh, one more thing. Let's not forget that there was one Democratic moron who decided to further the GOP and media "crisis" meme in the lamest way possible:
LIEBERMAN: This action by the Florida legislature really threatens the credibility and legitimacy of the ultimate choice of electors in Florida. It threatens to put us into a constitutional crisis, which we are not in now by any stretch of the word.
With candidates like these...
digby 12/29/2006 05:14:00 PM