The suspicion will not die that the Bush administration turned to Iraq for relief from a sharp decline in its domestic political prospects. The news had been dominated for months by corporate scandals and the fall of the stock market, and the November elections were shaping up as a referendum on the Republicans' handling of domestic social and economic issues. Investigative reporters had turned their attention to Dick Cheney's role at Halliburton and George W. Bush's sale of his Harken Energy shares just before the stock collapsed.
Senator Paul Wellstone, who died today along with his wife Sheila, his daughter Marcia and five others in a plane crash in Minnesota, was perhaps more than any other individual the very heart of American liberalism. His death leaves a gaping hole in our politics -- liberal politics, American politics -- that will be very hard to fill, and a gaping hole in our hearts that will not be filled at all.
Prospect editor-at-large Harold Meyerson went to Minnesota to profile Wellstone and his campaign. Here is what he wrote:
As war with Iraq looms bewilderingly larger this summer, it would be an overstatement to say that there's now a Peace Camp (or more precisely, an Anti-Invasion-Now Camp) in Washington. There sure as hell is a Privately Held Doubts Camp, however. People worry about the costs -- in lives, money and reputation -- that such a war would inflict on America; some even worry about the number of Iraqi casualties we would inflict. They worry about what would become of Iraq if we shuffle Saddam Hussein off this mortal coil; they worry that the administration doesn't even know what should happen if we do.
Epochs do not change on a dime. Yes, the era of market extremism is waning, Republicans' ratings are plummeting, and, the polls agree, more of us believe that Elvis is hiding in the hills with the Shining Path than still have faith in American big business. But none of this means that the liberal era, or hour, is upon us.
The liberal moment, perhaps. The all-but-unanimous congressional enactment of Paul Sarbanes' financial-reform bill was such a moment -- and how long has it been since American liberalism had one of those? But just one week later, the same discredited corporations that the Sarbanes bill took aim at still had enough clout to get a renewal of the president's fast-track authority through the very same Congress.