There is an expression in Britain that political careers “end in tears.” Then along came a strong-willed woman by the name of Barbara Castle. Ms. Castle, a Socialist version of Margaret Thatcher, missed the opportunity to become the first female prime minister in British history when her own Labour party imploded underneath her, leaving Margaret Thatcher to create a decade of Conservative Tory policy. Mrs. Castle resigned the high-level post she held in her party and swore off political careers, “They don’t end in tears, they end in fury!”
So, to quote a British band, “another one bites the dust,” it seems that the system under the second term of President Bush is consolidating its conservatives and casting away the crippled and meekly moderate. Of the victims, the former Attorney General John Ashcroft, a man passionate for all things Christian and American, was painted with the bad P.R. brush and had to be let go. So too did our poor Secretary of State Colin Powell. Clearly, it was either him or the Donald, and the Donald won to no great surprise.
Mr. Powell leaves after affecting the outcome of American foreign relations as weakly as his predecessors Madeline Albright and Warren Christopher. There will be no history for Colin Powell paralleling that of the true coalition-building of James Baker, or the success of Henry Kissinger’s implementation of Nixon’s Triangular Diplomacy, or John Foster Dulles’s molding of post-World War II global relations.
Clearly there is no place in the Bush administration for anyone as moderate or as independent of mind as Mr. Powell. The former secretaries of Education and Treasury seem to have had similar issues with the powers in the executive branch.
Never before in post-World War II American history have we seen an administration so capable of galvanizing the power of all branches of government to the benefit of the executive’s agenda. The checks and balances system is under threat. With the Democrats left as some equivalent of a parliamentary protest party at which they were never very good – the administration is free to steamroll over any moderates or free radicals in the G.O.P. that may at some point stand in the way of the Bush presidency. Political capital and mandates indeed.
Yes, the executive office is on a roll and it seems that the shallow promises of reaching across to the other side are just that. The Democrats have been vanquished. Any Clintonian remnants of their party still haunting the C.I.A., or the departments of state, education, defense, justice, health and education and transportation are being rounded up as we speak. Heads are rolling, and political dreams and careers are being crushed, all for the benefit of President Bush.
If there is one thing that we know of Washington today, is that it is a most vindictive town. Margaret Thatcher’s policies became so conservative as to lose her base in the Tory party. Mr. Bush could actually face the same deal in two years if matters continue or accelerate from the current cannibalistic trend of weeding out moderates. Mrs. Thatcher’s reign ended in a tearful ride from No. 10 Downing Street. Nixon’s was a mournful helicopter ride departing from the Rose Garden. The president should be mindful that healthy democracies and healthy administrations require a balanced equilibrium, lest they end in fury.
-The writer is a senior majoring in political science.