Friday, March 30, 2007

President Caligula, Your Chariot Awaits…

(Pic courtesy of All Hat, No Cattle.)

…the Senators are all oiled up, limbered up and are ready to run alongside it.

Yes, I’ll explain that all in due time but first, current events:

On March 9th, 2006, when Arlen Specter smuggled language like an Afghani opium dealer into Section 502 of the USA PATRIOT Act, changing Title 28 § 546 of the US Code that essentially gave the OPOTUS the latitude to appoint US attorneys without Senate approval, he opened the door allowing the likes of Harriet Miers, Karl Rove and Alberto Gonzales to begin the long night of long knives. In his waning moments of power, in the GOP majority’s sunset, former Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter once again gave George Bush another key from which to extricate himself from the shackles known as checks, balances and Congressional oversight.

And, whether by design or not, it essentially handcuffs the incoming Democratic majority in a way that’s reminiscent of a gutshot movie hero who, when the darkness and his enemies are closing in, detonates a hidden grenade. Sadly, this isn’t the movies. While Specter may no longer be in charge of one of the Senate’s most powerful committees, he’s still around to fight another day.

Yet, he and senators like Mitch “The Organic Roadblock” McConnell, Joe Lieberman and others will be known to historians as bitter old traitors who stabbed not Caesar in the back but themselves. They’ve essentially parted out the Senate by outsourcing oversight and legislation like an old Pontiac. There are no known instances of treasonous senators in Roman history (even though Caesar was assassinated for treason but that after he was a Senator). But this is not about historical parallels between today’s Senators and their Roman counterparts but another corollary.

History buffs may have already come across the strange parallels between Bush and Caligula. As with many emperors such as Caesar, Caligula had a contentious relationship with the Senate of his time.

One can make a case that the Bush/Caligula parallel could go a lot further. The first seven months of Caligula’s reign, as with the first several months of Bush’s, were pure bliss. There were free and fair elections (alright, Caligula has Bush beat there) and the masses loved the both of them. But that’s not my focus here. This is:

Here are two telling sentences from the life and times of Caligula that could come straight out of the front page of today’s Washington Post: “Though the exact cause of the argument between the young Caesar and the Senate is unclear, what sources remain seem to indicate that the Emperor had demanded a triumph and had been refused by the Senate… What is clear is that in 39 Caligula removed and replaced the Consuls without consulting the Senate, and publicly humiliated several Senators by forcing them to run alongside his chariot in their full robes.”

Consuls, in case you haven’t checked your dictionaries yet, were generally considered magistrates appointed by the Senate and served one- or two-year terms. It isn’t much of a stretch to see an eerie parallel between Caligula bypassing the Senate to appoint magistrates or Consuls and Bush bypassing the latter-day Senate in appointing US attorneys.

Then again, Rome didn’t have a USA PATRIOT Act and, as I’ve pointed out, the often weak and ineffectual Senate of ancient Rome was never guilty of actual treason and what Arlen Specter did in the final days of his greatest power was nothing short of treason. Oh, it’s not quite on a par with outing a covert agent, it may not be a hanging offense.

But it’s treason, nonetheless, and one that further undermined the delicate balance of power between the legislative and executive branches. And, as we all know, this isn’t the first time that Specter had transfused the blood of the Senate into the antecubital of Bush’s arm.

So can someone please explain to me Specter’s present stance that appears to oppose the Justice Department’s purging of at least eight attorneys under conditions that can only be charitably termed suspicious? And someone please rationalize to me this double-dealing scumbag's sanctimonious, holier-than-thou: "One day there will be a new attorney general, maybe sooner rather than later. But these [prosecutors] who were plastered across the newspapers all across the country, they will never recover their reputations." And this: “We have to have an attorney general who is candid, truthful and if we find that he has not been candid and truthful, that’s a very compelling reason for him not to stay on.” And then, there’s this pearl of conciliation after the House and Senate approved the use of subpoenas: "I counsel my colleagues, both Democrats and Republicans, to work hard to avoid an impasse. We don't need a constitutional confrontation."

Well, look who’s coming to the rescue to answer my questions but Arlen himself, who, during a Senate hearing on February 7th told the world that the real bad guy was Brett Tolman, a US attorney out of the US District Court in Utah. It was Tolman who changed the PATRIOT Act that essentially merged the Bush junta closer to the reign of Caligula. But even the feeble, corrupt Senate of that epoch of Roman history didn’t feature two-faced senators who’d willingly ceded their already eroding power to a despot, then put on a courageous, moralistic front by questioning the consequences of the fallout after blaming it all on someone else.

One has to wonder what Specter’s motivation was for rewriting Section 502 of the PATRIOT Act but one thing is clear: Specter and several other Senators must have known that something was up to warrant changing language in a specific section of the PATRIOT Act that paved the way for these politically-motivated “resignations”.

And, you have to admit, there’s a profoundly displeasing symmetry about Specter, the guy who helped bring all this about, participating in the very same Senate Committee that even now is struggling to determine how deeply illegal the purges were and how deeply in the White House the rabbit hole goes. A bad cop assigned to a case investigating his own crime.

So let’s all wait for the day when Specter and other loyal senators replace the Secret Service as they jog next to the presidential limo in their degradation.

I believe Cicero had the last word on the subject of governmental treason and this applies as equally to Arlen Specter as it does to the Plame outing:

"A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly. But the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself. For the traitor appears not a traitor; he speaks in accents familiar to his victims, and he wears their face and their arguments, he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men. He rots the soul of a nation, he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of the city, he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist. A murder is less to fear."

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