Who could ever forget George W. Bush’s words about elections, Iraq and accountability spoken after the 2004 election?
(Washington Post, Jan.16, 2005) Bush Says Election Ratified Iraq Policy
President Bush said the public’s decision to reelect him was a ratification of his approach toward Iraq and that there was no reason to hold any administration officials accountable for mistakes or misjudgments in prewar planning or managing the violent aftermath.
“We had an accountability moment, and that’s called the 2004 elections,” Bush said in an interview with The Washington Post. “The American people listened to different assessments made about what was taking place in Iraq, and they looked at the two candidates, and chose me.”
These are words we definitely need to remember now as Bush and the Republicans (and Joe Lieberman) bemoan the politicization of the Iraq War in this year’s congressional elections. It’s funny, isn’t it, how much they seemed to like the concept of political accountability over Iraq back when they thought it worked in their favor?
Accountability is important in democracy, of course; in fact, a good argument can be made that accountability is democracy. So it should be more than a little troubling that we’ve had so little of it lately.
You’ve read about it in all the papers — and in those dastardly “new media” outlets, as well — of all the barriers that have been built into the system to prevent true accountability: Noncompetitive congressional districts; undue power and influence by special interest groups; the power of incumbency; the prohibitive cost of running against entrenched power and on and on.
So along comes late October of the year of our Lord two thousand and six, when two things suddenly seem indisputable: First, that there is an overwhelming need to hold the current government accountable; and, second, that the general public recognizes this need.
The need for accountability can be dealt with in short order: First and foremost, of course, there’s the fact we are suffering through a disastrous war in Iraq that was brought into being through the deceit of the Republican president with the aid and comfort of the Republican Congress and was then prosecuted by them with a criminal level of incompetence.
But there’s plenty more mendacity and stupidity where that came from, including the betrayal of New Orleans, the widespread corruption in both Congress and the White House and the way, even aside from frank criminality, both of these branches of government have been reduced to little more than cash and carry operations where corporate lobbyists routinely write their own congressional legislation and executive regulations and make their own appointments to regulatory bodies.
I could go on, of course, but why depress ourselves unnecessarily.
As to the public’s recognition of the need to bring accountability to this mess, again no need to dawdle: According to the most recent polling, independents now favor Democrats over Republicans by a two-to-one margin.
So contrary to what most pundits are saying, the big unknown in this election isn’t whether all of the carefully constructed walls designed to assure continued Republican rule will be sufficient to hold back the growing Democratic wave.
No, the real question is whether our system of democratic accountability is still functioning at all and, if not, whether we can even fairly continue to call ourselves a democracy.