"You've outed yourself," I said. "And you're grinning like a banshee. Has
Obama's election liberated you?"
"What's really liberated me," said Shallow Throat, "is that the rightwing
extremists who hijacked my party, and almost took the country down with them, are
gone in electoral disgrace. Before Obama's landslide victory, I always had to
worry that I might be discovered talking to you, and lose my governmental
position, or worse. I revealed a lot about what was going on inside the White
House and my party and Cheney's heavies have no love for leakers. So thanks,
Bernie, for not revealing in your articles any clues about my identity, not even
I responded: "My readers and I have always found Shallow Throat's revelations
useful in figuring out how we in the opposition should confront and challenge
the GOP and the CheneyBush Administration. That's why I sent you the coded
message the other day: I think we all could benefit from your insider
perspective about the new Obama presidency and how the Republicans are responding to his
"You understand," said Shallow Throat, "that my long-range goal is to help
take the Republican party back to its traditional, small-government,
conservative roots, if that's still possible, as a brake on your Democratic friends'
tendency toward social engineering. The time will come when you and I will be
political opponents once again."
"Then why are you willing to talk to me now? Isn't there a contradiction
REPAIRING THE WRACK & RUIN
"Not really, not yet," said ST. "The first task is to undo the great damage
done by the wrecking crew of Bush and Cheney and their cohorts -- to the
economy, the Constitution, the environment, America's reputation abroad, etc. That
restoration will take years and years. Especially because the corporate
mass-media still support their point of view, the courts are riddled with far-right
ideologues appointed by Bush/Cheney, and also they've hidden many of their most
effective, lower-level operatives in civil service jobs inside the
government. But since I've exited from government service and work as a consultant now,
I don't have to be afraid any more of retaliation from GOP dead-enders or the
new Administration. I can say what I like, openly."
"You mean I can use your name now?" I asked.
"Afraid not, " ST said. "I don't want to scare off clients, who might wonder
if I can be trusted with the information they'll be giving me. The Beltway is
a closed loop and everybody knows everybody. I'll continue to be your 'Shallow
Throat' but still anonymously, at least for now."
"OK," I said. "Tell me how you read the early plays of the Obama
Administration, and about how your fellow Republicans are responding to them."
OBAMA AS A PRAGMATIC CENTRIST
"I think it's pretty clear, especially judging from the major appointments to
his Cabinet and economic team, and from the howls coming from the progressive
wing of the party, that Obama plans on governing pretty much from the
pragmatic wide center, though laying on enough liberal veneer to satisfy his base."
"Give me some examples of what's behind this 'liberal veneer' you're talking
about," I said.
"OK. 1) Among the establishment liberal economists Obama's chosen to head his
recovery program, many are partially responsible for the economic meltdown in
the first place. 2) He is overturning many of Bush's most egregious executive
orders but certain ones have been allowed to remain -- the one moving ahead
on possible offshore oil drilling along the coasts, for example. 3) In the
wording of his anti-torture executive order mandating use of the Army Field
Manual's interrogation rules, Obama has left a large loophole for possibly
continuing CIA torture of suspected terrorists. 4) His Mideast policy, despite the
rhetoric, is pretty much the same: unswerving support for Israel, little or no
support for Palestinian positions. And 5) Already last week deadly missile
strikes have taken place by unmanned Predator drones inside Pakistan, presumably
with President Obama's approval or acquiescence."
"But he is starting to get some flack from the progressive wing on these and
other matters," I countered. "I'm more interested right now on your insights
into how the Republican opposition is behaving."
THE DEARTH OF A GOP VISION
Shallow Throat launched: "The Republicans have no competent national
spokesman with the reputation and political smarts to deal effectively with rebuilding
the party away from its extremist history of the past few decades. McCain is
damaged goods, and is being wooed successfully by Obama in any case. So the
remnants of the Cheney/Bush ideologues in the Congress, led by McConnell in the
Senate and Boehner in the House, have no guidance and no program other than to
play the obstructionist card."
"What else is new?" I replied. "Their candidate didn't have any good, popular
ideas to run on for the presidency either and, as a result, McCain failed
miserably at the polls. Absent new ideas, can the Republicans be successful in
stopping the Obama/Democrat momentum?"
"Well, assuming Obama can't lure enough moderate Republican senators to his
side on key votes, the GOP can use their numbers in the Senate to filibuster or
threaten to filibuster, making Obama think that he has to compromise on
important legislation. That's just out-and-out GOP obstructionism. Shouting
'socialism' isn't an agenda."
"Exactly," I replied. "The voters want government to work for them, and too
many Republicans, still in the throes of extremist demagogery, continue talking
about 'drowning government in a bathtub' and are desperate enough to look to
Sarah Palin for leadership. That's just political suicide."
"In a sense, I certainly hope so," said Shallow Throat. "It could be that the
extreme wing will paint the party into such an unelectable corner by the 2010
midterms that mainstream Republicans like me and my friends will finally have
enough momentum to drive them out. The extremist/fundamentalist wing might
then found its own variant of the Know-Nothing Party while the rejuvenated GOP
will be able to put forth a genuine presidential competitor in 2012 to help
rebuild the party."
A SLIME STRATEGY
"But," I countered, "wouldn't the GOP's current strategy of obstructionism
and sliming Obama and his supporters wherever and however they can -- wouldn't
that aid your cause, by weakening Obama for 2012?"
"Maybe," said ST, "but at what cost to the country? We moderate Republicans
are not Rush Limbaughs, calling for Obama to fail badly in all his initiatives,
even those aimed at rescuing the wrecked economy. We Republicans want to be
judged as the better alternative in a healthy, civil contest between two
competing ideologies, not appear to be arrogant, my-way-or-the-highway destroyers.
We've had quite enough of that kind of politics during the past eight years."
"I think you're hopelessly naive," I said. "The Congressional Republicans,
after having their hands on all the goodies of power for the past eight years --
actually, with some exceptions, since the Reagan 1980s -- aren't about to
play nice just because they got their asses whooped in the last election. Obama
is making a big mistake if he thinks by working with them that they'll abandon
their scorched-earth political strategy. These guys play for nothing less than
victory, they're not civilized players like you and your moderate GOP
"Which" said ST, "is precisely why we GOP moderates must in the next several
years prepare ourselves for a return to power in the party after the
congessional leaders self-destruct with their values-thin, obstructionist approach."
HOW SHOULD PROGRESSIVES BEHAVE?
"And progressive Democrats?" I asked. "How do they fit into the picture?"
"They'll like some of what Obama does," said ST, "mainly in domestic areas,
but will feel betrayed in foreign and military policy, especially with regard
to Israel/Palestine, Afghanistan and maybe even Iraq. Obama is gambling on
their so liking being at the locus of federal power that they won't abandon him.
After all, Obama might reason, where else would the Democrat left go? But after
decades of compromised, watered-down center-right liberalism, the
progressives might just decide to walk and explore founding their own party, perhaps in
an alignment with the Greens and disaffected Republican moderates."
"You really believe that could happen?"
HOW THINGS COULD EXPLODE
"No. But in a horrific time that calls out for radical reform, and that
offers the rare opportunity to effect those massive changes, if Obama blows it and
sticks to the more-or-less status-quo center, public anger and disappointment
could become heated and party alignments could begin to gyrate wildly. Hope,
as important as it is psychologically for public morale, still isn't a paycheck.
"Just think what could happen if the recovery monies don't get out
immediately to the states for 'shovel-ready' infrastructure projects. Imagine the anger
and frustration if those jobs don't start to materialize until 2010 or 2011,
and if there isn't quick relief for mortgage-payers facing foreclosure. Don't
rule out a public backlash of immense proportions directed against a perceived
more-of-the-same Obama Administration and the Democrat and Republican Parties
And with that, Shallow Throat quickly walked away, leaving me sitting there
stunned, not knowing if I'd heard a forecast of hope for genuine change or a
prediction of massive failure and potential social revolution.
**To read Bernard Weiner's conversations with the Shallow Throat character
from 2002 to 2008, click here.
Bernard Weiner, Ph.D. in government & international relations, has taught
at universities in California and Washington, worked as a writer/editor with
the San Francisco Chronicle for two decades, and currently serves as co-editor
of The Crisis Papers (www.crisispapers.org). To comment:
First published by The Crisis Papers and Democratic Underground.
Copyright 2009 by Bernard Weiner.