Recalling Checks and Balances

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the Bangor Daily News (Maine)

Recalling Checks and Balances

"D'oh!"

That's Homer Simpson, who could now be hired as a spokesman by the Republican national leadership.

The only problem is that once you've led a country to unjustified war and commingled that evil blunder with economic catastrophe, you don't just get an automatic do-over.

So the Republicans want to - need to - regroup. The only problem is that real Republicans aren't anything like their leadership. The leadership of this now battered and bruised political wing of government are big spenders, obfuscaters, responsibility shifters, and cowardly. They dodge subpoenas, they ignore the needs of the country, and they feather their own nests to the detriment of those who elected them.

Need some proof?

According to CNN, the Iraq war is costing $430 million per day. Sure sounds like big spending to me. And who are the big beneficiaries? If you go to the Center for Public Integrity's Web site you can read the product of a six-month study titled "The Windfalls of War," which lists the amounts paid to contractors such as General Electric, Vinnell Corp. - what used to be Northrop Grumman - and Halliburton to name a few. The study also details the campaign contributions made by these companies to various politicos.

We are all familiar with the executive branch skirting the legislative branch's attempts at oversight - the once quaint notion referred to as "checks and balances." The president, vice president and their appointees have claimed some sort of privilege that will allegedly expire when these current executives exit the White House on the 20th of January. I use the term allegedly because of the potential for a "kumbaya" moment that will prompt the newly inaugurated Democratic leadership to start issuing pardons to the Bush-era criminals in exchange for some ever-elusive closure.

Our country exists under the pall of flagrant misconduct committed in the name of expedience and approved under a veil of fear. Considering most of the folks who helped make this happen will still be in office when the executive branch changes hands, this incumbency poses a problem to those lesser players. Who will protect them if some of the bigger players suddenly find themselves in a position to be interrogated? Especially if the high honchos are offered immunity for the information they provide.

Just extrapolate the data you get from reading "The Windfalls of War" and cross-reference the names of campaign contributors and recipients from the think tank OpenSecrets.org and you'll see why it is highly unlikely that there will be trials or even hearings to determine what parts of the government worked honorably and what parts did not.

A free and independent press is essential to the health of a functioning democracy

And the biggest incentive to pardon sins and hide the truth stems from the fact that the Republican leadership did most of their dirty work with the help of the Democratic leadership. And now that this Democratic leadership appears to include some new faces and possibly unpredictable players, the outreach to the enlarged number of elected Democrats has begun.

In fact, OpenSecrets.org shows that this year's defense contractor contributions to Democrats exceeded those made to Republicans for the first time since 1994.

Monday's Washington Post ran a story headlined "Sometimes Continuity Trumps Change." The article discusses the three major Bush administration officials who likely will stay on after President-elect Obama takes over as commander in chief. Ironically, these leaders head up the financial and military arms of the government. Ben Bernanke is expected to continue to head the Federal Reserve. You remember him; he was the leader of President Bush's financial advisory team. Also expected to stay is the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Michael Mullen and Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Gee, considering the overwhelming call for change in this country seems to have been a rallying cry against the current administration's economic and military policies, these attempts at continuity seem folly-ridden - unless we remember that the same investors and campaign contributors that brought us Bush-Cheney are now fighting to stay in control of Obama-Biden.

The Republican rank-and-file and the Democratic rank and file have one very important shared concern as they look to 2009, if the expected re-structuring in leadership ever actually reflects the needs of the party faithful.

Pat LaMarche

Pat LaMarche is host of the The Pulse Morning Show, which broadcasts in Maine and is available on the web at zoneradio.com. She is the author of "Left Out In America: The State of Homelessness in the United States." She was the Green Party's vice-presidential candidate in the 2004 U.S. presidential election, with David Cobb as its presidential candidate. Pat may be reached at PatLaMarche@hotmail.com

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