With each and every week bringing to light new disclosures of apparent corruption and cronyism within the George W. Bush administration, I am reminded of the last president we had who brought into his administration individuals who put ideology above the common interest and were amply rewarded for doing so--Ronald Reagan. Both presidents were champions of a new elite--an elite comprising not those persons of superior intellect or ability but rather those of unquestioned loyalty to a particular point of view.
When coupled with the particular point of view of this administration--that is, belief in the almost unlimited power of the commander-in-chief in times of war (the Unitary Executive Theory) and the accumulation of vast personal wealth and power over all other considerations--our nation is confronted, as it is today, with a grave threat to its reputation around the world, its self-confidence at home, and its rule of law.
Corruption flows from such an environment as naturally as mountain streams from a glacier. When loyalty is the most important character trait from the top of an administration down to the lowly paper shufflers, unquestioning obedience trumps altruism every time. If you do what you are told, you know that you will be protected--from having to testify before Congress or appear before a grand jury to having a lucrative job when you leave. If you leak information or squeal on a fellow, you lose your entire social network overnight. No administration I can think of has mastered this system better than the present one.
Given this environment, it is only natural for people to think they can get away with anything. Just think of the stuff that this administration has done with complete impunity compared to the problems that the previous administration had over a perjury related to a purely private matter.
All this is made worse by the attitude of the neo-conservatives that they are on a mission to democratize the world and thus immortalize themselves as champions of all that is noble and good. In their minds, the ends justify the means, no matter who or what they have to stomp on to get there, including the US Constitution.
My hope is that the American people have learned a lesson from the past seven years. I hope that they recognize that the Republican Party of the past 30 years is not the Party they thought they knew (if they've been around that long). The Republican Party of today is not a "party" at all. A "party" is a gathering of disparate people under one banner for a particular purpose, whether that be having fun or running a country. The Republican Party, in its current manifestation, is more like a club--perhaps the world's largest country club. You must pay your dues to enter the Republican Party today; those dues include promising to vote with your peers on every issue, memorizing the Party talking points, and keeping your mouth shut about what goes on behind closed doors.