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The Accountability Moment: Was Election 2004 Our Last Chance to Hold Bush in Check?
Published on Friday, January 21, 2005 by Working For Change
The Accountability Moment
Was Election 2004 Our Last Chance to Hold Bush in Check?
by Byron Williams

"Well, we had an accountability moment, and that's called the 2004 election. And the American people listened to different assessments made about what was taking place in Iraq, and they looked at the two candidates, and chose me, for which I'm grateful."
--President George Bush, January 16, 2005 Washington Post interview

I was shocked to learn that the 2004 election was the American people's single, solitary moment to hold the current administration accountable for its actions. As the president begins his second term, know that you blew your one and only chance at holding him accountable.

With the passing of the accountability moment there can be no more comments from the peanut gallery. If there are families and friends of our soldiers who have some growing doubt about our mission in Iraq, tough!

In a very linear, and I do mean linear, sense the president is correct. Accountability is, indeed, what elections involving incumbents is about. By the margin of roughly 119,000 individuals in Ohio, the American people believed that the president's record warranted an additional four years.

But in Bushspeak this could mean something very different. Bush seems to think that Election 2004 was our only opportunity to halt what it is becoming a 21st century version of Manifest Destiny. The president's belief in his God-given right to act as he sees fit reduces the Geneva Convention and the Constitution to secondary considerations. And from the president's perspective, the accountability moment is something that happens once every four years.

But acts of opposition should be undertaken more frequently than every four years during presidential elections. Could you imagine the Civil Rights Movement protesting during the 1960 presidential campaign between Kennedy and Nixon, then putting everything on hold until the 1964 campaign between Johnson and Goldwater? Was Congress was wrong for going after Nixon for Watergate? Was the Monica Lewinsky affair completely out of bounds?

Not only does the passing of the election grant immunity to the president, but such favor also gets passed on to members of his administration.

This would certainly explain the rationale for Paul Bremer, Tommy Franks, and George Tenet joining the ranks of Nelson Mandela and Mother Teresa in receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom. If accountability is no factor, then I suspect outgoing Attorney General John Ashcroft's medal will be ready by the time Alberto Gonzales is confirmed.

What is perhaps most concerning is that the president's statement leads me to ultimately conclude that on November 2, 2004, we the people relinquished any right to hold this administration accountable for anything.

Why don't we just lay down in silence while the president privatizes Social Security and changes the tax code?

It seems somewhat paradoxical that while the president demonstrates his determination for democracy in Iraq, he also suggests that the American people suspend one of its most precious resources for the next 48 months.

The ability to hold our government accountable is fundamental to the American experiment. It was ratified by the Founding Fathers, held together by Lincoln, protected by Roosevelt, and reignited by King.

Meanwhile, the president, who has the lowest approval rating of a reelected incumbent since Nixon, believes that having survived the accountability moment he is no longer accountable.

Byron Williams writes a weekly political/social commentary at Byron serves as pastor of the Resurrection Community Church in Oakland, California.

© 2005 Working Assets


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