watergate that almost wasn’t

bushreading3We’ve been waiting a long time for this. When “W” leaves office, a flood of new information about domestic spying, torture, detainments, Iraq war intelligence manipulation, etc., will begin to drench this impoverished nation with the changing of the guard.

I remember my dear old momma’s face (it wasn’t a pretty one) when it first became clear nearly two presidential terms and a world of perpetual war ago that Bush would be doing everything possible, with disgraced Abe Gonzales manning the legal guns, to obscure past imperial decisions. Iran-Contra came to mind. And so much more.

Presidential records under Bush II’s Executive Order 13233 (issued at the most politically secure time — three weeks after Sept. 11, 2001) made democratic transparency a “two-key” system, requiring both the current and former president to agree to the release of presidential records.

Though it sparked a lawsuit brought by the National Security Archive and has been challenged by Congress, the order stands yet.

Charles Homans tellingly writes for Washington Monthly that “under Bush’s rule, Nixon could have buried the Watergate tapes without explaining himself to anyone.”

But with Congress pushing and President-Elect Obama rolling on to the White House, the light of day is about to shine on decades of presidential behavior. What do we stand to learn?

Here’s a teaser from Homans’ article:

… when Bush hands over the keys to the White House in January, he will leave behind more unanswered questions of sweeping national importance than any modern president. We still do not know how intelligence operatives, acting in the name of the United States, have interrogated suspected terrorists, and how they are interrogating them now (see sidebar: TORTURE). We do not know how many Americans’ phone calls and e-mails were scanned by the National Security Agency (see sidebar: WIRETAPPING). We do not know—although we can guess—who ordered the firings of the U.S. attorneys who didn’t comply with the Bush administration’s political agenda, and we do not know who may have been wrongly prosecuted by those who did (see sidebar: POLITICIZATION OF JUSTICE). There are large gaps in our understanding of the backstories to everything from pre-war intelligence in Iraq to the censoring of scientific opinion at the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of the Interior. And those are the things we know we don’t know—there are also what Donald Rumsfeld might call the unknown unknowns.

It will be seem like a forever birthday for some of us, with information raining on political columnists, reporters, and biographers. Expect new revelations to soak the shoes of the just and unjust alike, those concerned and those ignorant of the anemic state of our democracy.

New Current staffer Greg Schwartz asked some valid questions about liberty and security last week and got an earful of anti-patriotisms. As if shadowlife was what our truest patriots had slogged, fought, and suffered for all these years.

It’s funny. We’ve lived with the Bush-Cheney version of events for so long without any viable alternatives (such as the truth) that the book world is correctly sensing maybe this out-going shouldn’t be greeted with high-dollar publication deals.

CNN’s Alexander Mooney wrote last week:

Bush has expressed interest in writing a memoir and hitting the highly profitable lecture circuit, but experts say both pursuits could pose pitfalls.

Publishers, concerned the president’s slumping approval ratings could translate to less-than-stellar book sales, have reportedly been lukewarm about a Bush book deal.

Bush has expressed interest in cataloguing 10 crises he’s faced, Brinkley said, but wary publishers are somewhat cold to that idea, perhaps concerned that a public still reeling from the country’s financial meltdown might not have an appetite for the president’s account of his own difficult times.

Count me among that “number still reeling” bunch.

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