For three more years America is going to be led by, not just a lame duck President, but a totally discredited President. In a poll taken yesterday 90% percent of those asked said they believed top Bush administration officials are guilty of either illegal or unethical behavior in the CIA leak case.
So where does that leave an un-indicted George W. Bush? There really are only two explanations and neither reflect well on him. First he can claim his closest aides conspired behind his back while he was otherwise occupied. I call that the "Exxon Valdez Defense," -- the captain was not at the helm when a careless crewman ran the ship of state aground. Unfortunately for Captain Bush that defense did not wash for the real captain of the ill-fated tanker. Because , you see, the captain is always responsible.
The other explanation is worse; that the President of the United States knew what was going on, maybe even participated in it.
Either way, Bush is finished as a force in American politics. How he ever got to become President in the first place -- not once, but twice -- will remain a subject social scientists will study and debate for decades to come. Because there was plenty of evidence that George W. Bush was a made man. He had accomplished nothing in his adult life on his own. Not one. (Click Here for more on that.)
Of course, for those of us who have covered the Bush family for years, it's no mystery at all. The best way to think of George W. Bush is as a "beard" for others. At every step in his "career" individuals of wealth and/or power groomed and then used him as their front man.
These benefactors had learned long ago that there was more money and more power to be had in the shadows than the limelight. All they needed was the right person to front for them, someone with a name, a smile, a confident swagger. Vision, dreams, hopes and ethics were not only unnecessary but liabilities in a beard. All they needed was a person they can program, wind up and send out into the public spotlight and deliver for them.
That's George W. Bush. He fit the bill to a "T." Texas oil men and companies with international agendas and voracious appetites for government contracts had found their perfect front man in GWB – a kind of Forrest Gump from the Dark Side. A man ignorant, proud of it, and willing to take direction from those he considered friends.
They began by nurturing George's pathetic efforts to become a high-rolling Texas oil man. Though his companies failed, they made sure he never did. Then they were able to further his ascendancy by indulging his playful side, buying him his own baseball team – a Texas baseball team. That raised George's public profile to just a notch below their ultimate goal, public office.
Fully groomed and programmed they finally steered George towards the goal. And it worked, probably beyond their wildest expectations. As Governor of Texas their beard kept state regulators out of their hair on dollar and cents issues critical to the oil drilling and processing industries, like air quality. That alone would have been sufficient payoff for their years of cleaning up George's business messes.
Bagging the US Presidency was an unexpected super-bonus. Still, they knew it was a development ripe with as much danger as opportunity. After all, they knew the real George W. Bush. There was no way they could send that hayseed off to the Big Show unattended. Dick Cheney and Karl Rove were tasked with keeping their idiot prince both on message and a short leash. God forbid he should ever make a speech, take a position or make a decision on his own!
All went very well for the first four years. From day one, their boy delivered, delivered and delivered again. He was a gift that just kept giving;
* $1.6 trillion in tax cuts, the bulk of which went to people like them;
* environmental laws watered down; expanded logging allowed in national forests;
* a push to open protected Alaska wilderness to oil and gas drilling;
* Iraqi oil fields suddenly within reach;
* plenty of cheap labor flooding across our southern border.
* And just as it looked as if he was on the way to fulfilling another assignment, the elimination of the estate tax, his beard fell off.
It was the thing they had always feared most – the real George W. Bush went public. There it was, for the whole world to see – a chuckling, twitching, dope of man standing in front of the America people, unleashed and unscripted. Worse yet, he was making his own decisions. He chose his friend and admirer, Harriet Miers, for the Supreme Court of the United States of America. ("Harriet who," his handlers asked.)
What went wrong? Where were his handlers?
Busy. They dropped Gorege's leash when handed subpoenas. Junior was unleashed and home alone.
It's a moment new to America, a leader who himself needs to be led, now unled. And the world watching. It's as if the police had come and dragged Edgar Bergin off stage in the middle a show, leaving Charlie McCarthy, wide-eyed, mouth agape and slumped alone on his stool.
So, what now?