If Republicans were so fearful of losing the 2004 presidential election to Sen. John Kerry that they spared no dirty trick to slime Kerry's Vietnam War heroism as fake, with White House connivance, would they dare repeat it in 2008 when GOP chances of losing the Oval Office to a Democrat are even more probable?
Are there 2008 incarnations of Katherine Harris, the Florida secretary of state (later congresswoman) who presided over the disputed vote count that gave George W. Bush a controversial 537-vote lead in the state, costing Al Gore Florida's electors and the 2000 election?
What of electronic voting machines that conveniently malfunction on Election Day?
Will the Justice Department under new Attorney General Michael Mukasey, who refused to call "waterboarding" torture illegal, be an honest, impartial legal referee in vote disputes? Or would he, like former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, kneel to orders from the White House and skew election outcomes?
These are ugly, sad times for Americans. Questioning the honesty of elections and candidates is well justified.
Candidates, especially for president, no longer can be relied on for truth or to guard the public trust. Driven by an egocentric desperation to win, they usually exaggerate, frequently just lie. A whole new industry to expose candidate fabrications has been created—fact-check organizations that poke through old speeches and voting records to find whether candidates have been fickle with facts. The oldest and most esteemed is the University of Pennsylvania Annenberg Public Policy Center's FactCheck (http://factcheck.org).
Unlike any other modern presidency, including that of the disgraced Richard Nixon, President George W. Bush's reign has been the most conspicuously destructive of the American democracy. It purges those who tell the truth, trashes the U.S. Constitution to create a police state of fear and invasion of privacy, legalizes torture, rebukes congressional oversight, doles out unaccounted billions of dollars to corporate cronies, protects criminal conduct behind the smoke screen of "executive privilege," launches a war on a lie.
President Bush may be a lame-duck chief executive with only a year remaining. But appointees that place party loyalty above country still can wreak havoc on the election process.
One wonders whether future American history textbooks will document shameful shenanigans of the 43rd presidency. Or will future generations be spoon fed romantic civic lessons that the U.S. government still is a model of George Washington's "I-cannot-tell-a-lie" folk tale?
In my recent column on Army GIs cheating on tests, I wrongly attributed a brilliant investigative report to The Washington Post. In fact, The Boston Globe's Kevin Baron and Alan Wirzbicki wrote the article. My apologies.