Rollo Tomasi and the Age of Empire

By Martin Bosworth

Ed Exley: Rollo Tomasi is the reason I became a cop. I wanted to catch the guys who thought they could get away with it. It’s supposed to be about justice. Then somewhere along the way, I lost sight of that.

— from “L.A. Confidential”

The news that Dear Leader emancipated his patsy Scooter inspired some impressive declarations of rage and frustration from my friends, colleagues, and peers. Even people who had heretofore shown not the least bit of interest in the twisted machinations of the Libby/Plame/Wilson affair were angry. Why? Because Libby had been found guilty by a jury of his peers after an exhaustive trial, had blown all of his chances to reduce or delay his sentence, and was looking at a decent jail term–until Dubya swept in on angel’s wings and granted him leave. It was, simply put, a big ol’ “Fuck You” to the public will, the justice system, and any notion that we can expect equal treatment for all under the law.

Surely these are not new ideas–politics being used to reward allies and punish foes is as old as the process itself. And this sort of blatant favoritism was all the rage in the days of the Tudors, for instance. But America, for all our supposed cynicism and apathy, is a deeply naive, innocent nation. We want to believe in the dream of working hard, being treated fairly, and earning our success. We also believe that the bad guys get caught and will go to jail if they break the law.

John Rogers, in his excellently eloquent fashion, dissects this belief for the bullshit it is:

There is a sizeable population in America that just does not, cannot wrap their head around the fact that the President may be a Bad Man who does Bad Things. He’s President of America. We’re Americans. We’re the good guys. Remember, the Nixon mythos in America is that the system worked. “See, in America, even the President is not above the law.”

These Suited Bastards know the fragile shell of American exceptionalism is all that’s keeping a whole lot of people from processing that they’re working too many hours for not enough money, and they either believe real reeaaaalll hard that they’re living in the Shining City on the Hill or admit their lives are shit and they’ve been chumped.

These past seven years have been a watershed in teaching Americans what much of the world has known for many years–that rulers, more often than not, simply Do Not Care What You Think. They will punish their enemies, reward their friends, enjoy the privileges of power, and ignore or openly spit on the masses—and the masses will take it, because they’re afraid, apathetic, or buy into the lies to keep themselves convinced that the status quo is better than the alternative. And Bush is especially egregious in this regard–a lifetime of ignorant, childish defiance mixed with insecure bluster and coddling privilege–the ultimate Daddy’s boy who wanted to replace his dad–has bred a man who will break any law, violate any rule, and care nothing for the consequences. Just because he can.

And what are we doing? Well, we’re outraged, angry, and not shy about expressing it. But what about concrete pursuit of justice and demanding accountability for the high crimes committed? Are we really letting the bad guys get away with it?

If Nancy Pelosi’s comments about impeachment are any indication, we can expect a lot of finger-wagging, subpoenas that go nowhere, and empty threats for many more months, while the Bush/Cheney Axis of Evil winds down into ever more blatant examples of corruption, cronyism, and utter disrespect for our country and its laws.

And why shouldn’t they? We’re an empire now, made of subjects and lords, and the subjects’ lot in life is just to shut up, take it, and not beg for more. We’ve lost sight of the cost of liberty, because we’re afraid, apathetic, and feel powerless. And they’re Rollo Tomasi–the guy who gets away with it.

And we’re letting them do it.

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