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But the President wasn't the only one to have an accountability moment in 2005. The United Nations was finally compelled to concede that the oil-for-food program for Saddam's Iraq had turned into a massive scam. The French looked into the abyss of their tendency to segregate the races. Arnold Schwarzenegger discovered that his charms had limits. Harriet Miers was stunned to find that being the President's favorite lawyer and running the Texas lottery were not actually qualifications to be a Supreme Court Justice. The New York Times's Judith Miller learned that you cannot be both a journalist and a de facto member of the Bush Administration. Scooter Libby was informed that fibbing to a grand jury--even if you are Dick Cheney's right-hand man--is not, in the end, a good idea. Baseball players with necks the size of most people's thighs were shocked to discover that we were on to them. Saddam Hussein found himself in a court that he didn't control. Even the journalistic giant Bob Woodward realized that he still worked for a newspaper to whose readers he remained--yes!--accountable.
We tend to think democracies come truly alive only when we elect or throw out a President or Congressman or Senator. But the truth is that sometimes the democratic spirit is more vibrant in the intervals. Democracy is rooted in the impertinent belief that our rulers are no better than we are and that they are answerable always. We're occasionally amazed to discover that people who are used to power forget that. That's why, every now and again, we have to remind them. In that sense, 2005 was a great year for democracy. Because it was reborn this time after the votes were counted.
Andrew Sullivan's blog, the Daily Dish, can be found at andrewsullivan.com