Democratic Underground

"Shallow Throat": Slime Report from the Bush World

February 23, 2005
By Bernard Weiner, The Crisis Papers

"Shallow Throat" had not contacted me since months before the November 2004 election. I figured that the high-level GOP mole, who formerly had worked at the White House before moving to another agency, was bummed out and needed time to reflect.

So receiving ST's coded calls was a good sign. We met in an obscure diner in Rockville, MD. I could tell Shallow Throat was in bad shape, since my conservative informant looked pale and depressed and was back to wearing a wig and wraparound shades.

"I can't describe to you, Bernie, what the atmosphere is like inside the Administration," said a nervous-sounding ST. "Publicly, they are taking their electoral 'victory' as confirmation that they don't have to give an inch, to anyone. It's full speed ahead domestically and abroad. But privately, they are well aware of how tenuous the situation could become for them in some areas, which is why they are coming out of the chute with such full-bore speed and determination. (Observe how they are trying to keep anyone from getting to the truth of that electoral 'victory,' especially in Ohio.)

"They realize that, as is often the case for 're-elected' administrations, there is only a brief window of opportunity in the second term to get things done. So, it's tort and Social Security 'reform' and more Patriot Act laws domestically, and in foreign policy it's on to getting their way with Syria and Iran."

"You look terrible," I said. "We can talk about their plans and policies in a minute. I'm worried about you. How are you holding up?"

INSIDE THE BUSH BUNKER

"Not too well. Like you, I figured that enough voters would have seen through these ruthless, greedy, power-hungry bastards, and they'd be gone by now. It wouldn't have mattered to me, an old-time Republican, if the Democrats were now in power, making their own mistakes. At least, we'd be working to undo the damage Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld/Ashcroft and friends did to the country and the world over the past four years.

"Instead, I'm still in the belly of a vicious, determined beast, which is even more paranoid this time out. That's why they've made sure the key players are totally loyal, hunkering down in the political bunker with Bush and Cheney and Rove. Just look at the ruthless, brazen criminals in that bunker: Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz at Defense, Rice and Abrams at State, Gonzales at Justice, Goss at CIA, Chertoff at Homeland Security, Hadley as National Security Adviser, Negroponte the Intel Czar. They're all dirty; perfect candidates someday for criminal prosecution.

"Anyway, I guess I'm answering your question by indirection about how I'm doing. Things are terrible, and disloyalty is simply not permitted. Nor are any concessions to the real world; it's fantasyland, lies told to themselves that bear little relation to reality. Instead, it's pretty much like 'You vill click heels and follow orders, ja? Sieg heil!' If I were to get caught spilling my guts to you - and through you, to your liberal associates out there - God help me."

"I appreciate your courage in contacting me," I said. "So you must have something you really want to talk about."

"You bet. As usual, these Bush guys are over-reaching and, in their arrogance, not covering their tracks very well. Even with the Congress in their hands, most of the mass-media whoring for them, and the courts effectively neutered, the Bushies are vulnerable on several fronts. If the Democrats only can get their act together and, working in tandem with a lot of disaffected Republican moderates, take them on frontally, there might be hope.

"Certainly, Reid and Pelosi and Dean are showing some fighting spirit and seem willing to battle the Bushies' more egregious, extreme policies and judicial appointments. But they can't always bring their troops along with them. Look at the capitulation on Condi Rice; what on earth happened to Leahy, Biden, Obama, Feinstein, Clinton, Feingold and the other so-called 'liberals?'

"Look at the shameful Democrat votes on Bush's bill to curtail class-action suits. They just caved. Disgraceful! You're either an Opposition Party or you're not; you don't play patty-cake with these Bush guys - they'll eat you alive, crush you and grind up your bones. You'd have thought the Dems might have learned that painful lesson by now.

"The Republicans have clear splits inside the party - especially, for example, on Bush's Social Security plan - but their public face is one of unity and support for their President. The Democrats need to develop that kind of party discipline behind their leaders. The only thing that ever makes the Bush folks back off is facing a concerted, determined opposition - especially if it includes a good many moderate Republicans acting in concert with your Democrat friends."

WHERE DEMS SHOULD ATTACK

"Look," I replied, "the Democrats can't battle the Bush Administration on every issue, lest they be attacked as total 'obstructionists.' They have to pick and choose judiciously the issues on which to fight. Which ones would you suggest they make their stands on?"

"Just follow Rove's lead; he's revealed publicly those issues the Administration will push for in these first two years of their second term. Domestically, major 'reform' of Social Security and tort law, and renominating the extremist judges who were turned down last time; and, in foreign policy, continuing the neo-con strategy of politically restructuring the Islamic Middle East, by threats and suasion if possible, by military means if necessary. (Former U.N. weapons inspector Scott Ritter says Bush already has approved plans for attacking Iran in early summer.)

"The Administration is vulnerable in each of those domestic areas. Not even most Republicans agree with the Bush plan on Social Security; they'll mouth the party spin, but they don't want to risk their re-election chances, and many believe this Social Security plan is reckless nonsense. If the Democrats hang firm together, and if they can slice off a few more Republicans from supporting the Bush plan, Rove & Co. will go down to a flaming and embarrassing defeat. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy.

"Tort reform will be a bit harder, since the public understands Social Security and the dangerous and prohibitively expensive fiddling the Bush Administration wants to do with it. But tort 'reform' - trying to shield greedy corporations and malpracticing doctors from being awarded big bucks by juries for their crimes - is much more complex, and so there isn't that Democrat cohesion on the issue, as was the case on the bill restricting the filing of successful class-action suits.

"Tort 'reform' could be made into a major populist campaign against the Bush Administration if the Democrat leadership can frame the debate properly - ordinary people need these lawsuits and awards to keep the powerful honest - and maintain party discipline behind them.

"Gonzales will carry on Ashcroft's legacy of expanding central goverment power over peoples' lives, by trying to push through Patriot Act 2 bills that further shred the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Plus, Gonzales is the same guy who approves of torture and dictatorial rule by the President. The Dems can stand up and fight on these moves; even a good many Republicans, from the right and the center, believe that Patriot Act 1 went too far in certain areas, so maybe a Dem/Libertarian/GOP alliance can be made to fight the worst of the new bills."

RESISTING BUSH'S MIDEAST WARS

"What about the war, or wars, issue?" I asked. "Even though the public still indicates it thinks the war in Iraq isn't worth it, the Bushies have taken heart, asserting that the recent Iraq elections proves it's morally right that U.S. troops should be there. Are you suggesting that the American people might not go along with similar military adventures in Iran and Syria?"

"Given the over-stretched mission of U.S. forces these days, and their inability to keep and recruit enough troops, and the opposition of the country to a military draft, it seems clear that the Bush Administration doesn't want to have to invade another country - and that they couldn't depend on the American populace to support such action if they did.

"But the Bush neo-cons are not averse to stirring up opposition internally to the Iranian mullahs and to young Assad in Syria, and to inserting covert-ops demolition and assassination squads into those countries, and to bombing key installations from the air - or, in the case of Iran's nuclear plants, if the political heat in this country gets too intense, the neo-cons would encourage the Israelis to bomb those sites. Bush & Co. are bound and determined to get and protect that oil, to control the geopolitical direction of that region for years to come, and to provide Israel some breathing room from retaliatory attacks.

"But all that will come at a high price in treasure spent and American lives lost, and there is bound to be (and Iraq is the perfect example) constant and unremitting incompetence from Rumsfeld in nation-building - thus ensuring that more and more terrorists will join the anti-American fight.

"That future scenario can be laid out by the Dems, and they'll find a good many Republicans of similar mind. Bush is spending $300 billion of our tax dollars (that's Billion, with a capital B!) for nation-building in Iraq & Afghanistan - starving our treasury and social programs of much-needed funds - and the result may well be an Islamist government more friendly to Iran than to America. Good organizing points for a possible political alliance."

FOLLOW THE MONEY TRAIL

"Any other areas of Bush Administration vulnerability?" I asked.

"Follow the money. On environmental issues, the greedy polluters have been given permission to pillage and plunder our natural resources, national parks, our air and water. In Iraq and Afghanistan, at least $9 billion (Billion!) has simply disappeared - no doubt into corrupt corporate pockets - with nobody in the Administration seeming to care in the slightest. Somebody stole that money; make them, and those crooks in charge, accountable. Those are our taxes, damn it!

"And there's the way our tax monies have been used by the Bushies to buy favorable media coverage - payola for rightwing pundits and journalists, creating phony news reports, etc. Follow that cash trail and see where it comes from and where it winds up.

"And then, of course, there's the Jeff Gannon scandal. Someone high up in the Administration, either in Scott McClellan's office or even higher - and you know who I mean - moved Jeff Gannon (real name James Guckert) into the White House press corps, fed him scoops, enlisted him in dirty-tricks against Dem candidates, and made sure he was always there to throw puffball questions to McClellan and Bush.

"Apparently, this non-journalist GOP propagandist - and given his night-job as a paid male escort for gay men, a potential national security risk - received his credentials without having been vetted by the FBI and Secret Service. He even was given access to the White House press room before Talon News, his ostensible employer, even existed. Who made all that happen for him?

"I'm not sure Guckert was receiving subsidies directly from the White House - it probably was more subtle, his salary and bonuses coming from cutaway Republican outfits like GOPUSA and Talon News, financed by wealthy Texas GOP operatives. Guckert, a true believer, probably did it for ideological reasons and for the White House press-pass prestige. But I'd try to see if there was a money trail there anyway; there often is. (Who paid Guckert when he was sliming Daschle in South Dakota, for example? Who was Guckert working for when he got involved in the Valerie Plame scandal?)

MOLTO DESTRUCTO POLITICS

"The Bushies aren't averse to playing molto destructo against Democrats; give them a taste of their own medicine. Stick to the high ground, but don't let them get away with a thing. If Pelosi and Reid and Dean want to play politics against this crew, they're going to have to mix it up in the streets; when they win a few victories (Social Security, denying extremist judges, etc.), the playing field will be a bit more level, and more rank-and-file Dem trying to shield greedy corporations and malpracticing doctors, for example, from being awarded big bucks by juries for their crimes ocrats, and moderate Republicans, will find they can have spines, too."

"But face it. There aren't going to be very many victories at first. These guys are in control and they're going to run their juggernaut over anything and anybody that gets in the way - a hallmark of their take-the-money-and-power-and-run brand of old-fashioned machine politics. But in their brazen arrogance and greed and thirst for power, they are making, and will continue to make, big mistakes, to leave traceable tracks, to overreach one too many times. At that point, they're ripe for the plucking. Go get 'em."

And with that, Shallow Throat slid out of the booth, adjusted the shades, and headed out of the diner. ST seemed happier on the way out. As did I.

Bernard Weiner, playwright, poet and Ph.D. in government/international relations, has created many other conversations with the "Shallow Throat" character (available at The Crisis Papers, which he co-edits).

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