Thursday, November 17, 2005

Unsteady Ground in Washington

I think Washington as we know it is coming apart. It's not just the scandals: the CIA leak, Tom DeLay, Bill Frist, Jack Abramoff. It's not just the poll numbers showing Bush significantly below 40% and a mojority of Americans believing his misled us on Iraq. It's not just Republicans worrying about the next election.
The current news cycle includes two earth shaking events:
1. Bob Woodward, who is really an institution in himself, has apologized to the Washington Post, his putative employer.
"I apologized because I should have told him about this much sooner," Woodward, who testified in the CIA leak investigation Monday, said in an interview. "I explained in detail that I was trying to protect my sources. That's job number one in a case like this. . . ."
No Bob. Job number one is telling your editor what's going on. But Woodward has operated by his own rules for years, rules that allow him to keep secrets from the Post to use in his books. This unique arrangement worked as long as Woodward's interests didn't deviate from his employer's. When that happened, he did what comes naturally in Washington:
"I hunkered down. I'm in the habit of keeping secrets. I didn't want anything out there that was going to get me subpoenaed."
Hunkered down is what Nixon did, and for good reason. And actually Bob, you were in the business of revealing secrets, that is before you became fully embedded in the Washington establishment.
2. The House of Representatives reversed itself and cut two embarrassing transportation projects:
WASHINGTON, Nov. 16 - Congressional Republicans decided Wednesday to take a legislative wrecking ball to two Alaskan bridge projects that had demolished the party's reputation for fiscal austerity.
That never happens. It just isn't done. Pork is sacrosanct in Washington, or it was until yesterday. Of course, the GOP majority had grown so shameless that Tip O'Neil would have blushed brighter than his nose at the brazeness of the current Washington kleptocracy. Bridges to nowhere are what the Japanese ruling party, the LDP, built at the height of its power, before economic reality forced the party to face up to needed reforms.
Would that our ruling party offered a more substantive gesture towards reform:
"It's largely symbolic," said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who would have preferred to strike all $24 billion in special projects that members stuffed into the highway bill. "The money will still go to Alaska," as opposed to the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast, or to fund other budget priorities, McCain said.
Roughly 6,000 other transportation projects escaped the axe. Oh well, tomorrow's another news cycle.


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