Jim Austin's Vermonter at Large
Jim Austin
Jim Austin
is a freelance writer from Putney, Vermont.

His previous columns are archived HERE.

Posted 06.21.02


The Nixon Legacy

Last week was the thirtieth anniversary of the Watergate scandal. The flashback of Nixon sweating in the oval office while virtually admitting to collusion in the burglary at the Watergate hotel is still fascinating. The Nixon legacy is one of paranoia, enemies lists, constitutional atrocities, and -- above all -- secrecy.

Our current administration is looking more and more like a clone of the Nixon gang.

Their flashdance with the FBI and CIA to distract our attention from their own errors is reminiscent of Nixon's use of the FBI to shadow American citizens that he deemed dangerous to his regime.

Bush, Ashcroft, and Cheney have perpetrated so many shady deals and constitutionally unsound acts that it is very difficult to keep up with. The media seems to report their violations, then just allow them to fade away as if editors are reining them in and refusing to disclose the pattern of misbehavior that is evident to anyone paying attention.

A prime example of this is a remark made by Bill Keller of the NY Times. How, he asks, can we trust guys who concoct a nasty canard about Castro and bio-weaponry just so they could embarrass Jimmy Carter.

Well how can we? And why don't we make them pay for lying like reptiles?

These three guys seem to operate in the shadows much of the time. Every once in a while they poke their heads out of a bunker to deliver some fairy tale to us peasants, but most of the good stuff seems to take place in secret. If you want to know the identities of oil executives who sat down with Tricky Dick Cheney to decide on our national energy policy, you have to get a subpoena.

Ten minutes after the subpoena was delivered the White House sneeringly said that all they were doing was preserving their executive privilege to keep their advisor's privacy. Liars.

Last Fall, as Enron stock prices plummeted, the big shots were raping the company to the tune of 680 million bucks. Kenneth Lay received over 20 million dollars as the juggernaut was slipping into a vortex of bankruptcy.

How much did the White House know?

They acknowledge Enron's obscene contributions to the GOP cause over the years. They were caught in a lie when they denied having discussions with Enron execs just before the collapse.

The White House logs squealed on them. Didn't they know about the logs? I wonder if Ari Fleischer grabbed an eraser and tried to rub out the entries for 18 minutes?

How fishy is the dirty bomb suspect announcement?

They have had this low life on ice for a month. They have exactly no evidence that he had access, or discussed, or even had a dream about a bomb using radioactive materials. He is being held as a prisoner in a war that Congress has not declared, that has no specific enemy, and no discernible date where this "war" might be over.

So this prisoner of war really has no hope of either trial or release. It looks very much like he was being kept on the shelf, much like our colorful warning system for a time when the opposition begins to question their tactics.

Ironically, the Environmental Protection Agency was begun by the Nixon administration. It took the ultra-right wing Bush administration to gut it like a carp. The arrogance of finally admitting the validity of global warming and then relaxing the environmental rules on coal burning energy producers is sickening.

Add to that the hypocrisy of supporting strict Florida environmental rules to help brother Jeb in his bid for Governor and you have to start a file catalogue to keep their malfeasances in order.

Finally, the Democrats.

They have a chance to hold the smelly feet of this administration to the fire. They have an opportunity and a duty to defend the constitution and the civil liberties of all Americans. Every time they comment on the dodgy doings of the Bush gang they are accused of treason by the GOP.

Instead of scuttling back from the podium or making whimpering declarations of loyalty, the Democrats should be asking George Bush: "At long last Mr. Bush, have you left no sense of decency?"

That 1954 statement by the counsel for the US Army effectively ended the reign of terror perpetrated by the late red-baiting psychotic, Senator Joe McCarthy of Wisconsin.

The last time our civil liberties were systematically attacked was also in a time of great national upheaval. The Vietnam war distracted Americans from the nefarious behavior of Tricky Dick and his band of burglars. Eventually, a pair of reporters named Woodward and Bernstein shone a light on Nixon's paranoid abuse of power.

Would they have been given leave to do the same to this administration?

Cheney, Bush, Ashcroft -- the three prophets of doom -- are successfully probing the darkest recesses of the American psyche. They plant amorphous seeds of fear, fertilize them at intervals with scary warnings coupled with terror scenarios, and while we are quaking with anger and fear, they suck away at our civil rights.