The necessity of an accountable government

PHOTO: White House

In my last post, I gave a quick rundown of failures resulting from U.S. Middle East policy. In a similar vein (and on the same day, strangely enough), Shaun Mullen from the Moderate Voice offered up a depressing list of Bush administration scandals.

Here are six of my “favorites” from his list:

  • The official embrace of torture in contravention of the Constitution, treaties and conventions and common decency.
  • The willful destruction of millions of White House emails sought by congressional investigators.
  • Voter supression efforts directed by the Justice Department.
  • No-bid contracts given Halliburton and other firms working in Iraq and Afghanistan with close administration ties.
  • The consequences of the multiple Bush signing statements.
  • Government and government-funded scientific research and studies skewed for political reasons.

You can read the entire list here.

Mullen asks what should be done about these abuses and crimes. I’ve seen it argued that any attempt to hold the Bush administration accountable would do nothing but harm. It would smack of a politically motivated attack and could destroy the best chance in eight years of strongly rebuking the Bush administration and its supporters through elections. For what it’s worth, I strongly believe that holding powerful government officials accountable is important for deterring future excesses and lawbreaking.

Right now, the President and his cabinet officials act with impunity. They know Congress is too timid to hold them accountable. Democrats seem content with punting until after election season is over. But whatever their motivations, the precedent Congress is establishing is dangerous for those of us not inhabiting the halls of power. Without government accountability and openness, we have to live in fear of the government, when government officials should live in fear of the people. In essence, we would cease to live in democracy.

Flickr photo of the White House by Scott Ableman

One Comment

  1. Ian

    I think the accountability debate, at least for recent days, goes back more to Clinton than Bush. Remember the national backlash against the Republicans for going after Clinton with the Lewinsky business? His approval ratings actually went up during that whole mess if I recall correctly. That was a short term backlash, and the long term one was against the Democrats. This is why we have Bush.

    Clinton did break the law, but the investigation was a complete circus. There was no way they could get him with it all going the way it did. It is unfortunate that Bush and his cronies won’t ever be held accountable, and no, judging him through history won’t be enough. This is what the limitation to two parties brings down on us. Unless the Congress were 2/3’rds Democrats, there’s no way a Republican President would get removed from office (and vice versa). Bush could probably kill an orphan on live television and I bet some Republicans still wouldn’t vote against him.

    I’ve said for a while that the two parties only give the illusion of choice and that they really serve to maintain power for each other. If things go bad under one party, people think that voting for the other party is somehow a referendum on the first party. That party leads until the country gets sick of them, and so forth. If both parties are bad and corrupt, how do you make any real positive change?

    Whoever is elected next is guaranteed to be more of the same. McCain has had improper dealings with Vicki Iseman, a lobbyist. Clinton has had her share of messy fund raising. Obama has got his guy Rezko. You can say that Clinton and Obama gave the money to charity or whatever, but remember that if Rezko and Clinton’s shady donor hadn’t gotten caught, that money would be used to try and win your vote.