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November 6, 2005 - A Shift in the Wind, Maybe

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According to sites that track what is being discussed in the new agora, the net - Technorati and Memeoradum are two of them - the Washington Post was stirring up the most trouble on Sunday, October 30, unless, of course, the algorithms these sites use to crunch raw RSS feed data are wrong. (And what exactly is RSS? See this.)

The two Post items that provided source material for a flood of discussion are these:

White House Ethics, Honesty Questioned
55% in Survey Say Libby Case Signals Broader Problems
Richard Morin and Claudia Deane - Sunday, October 30, 2005; Page A14

Democrats Demand Rove's Firing
Further Details Sought on Cheney's Involvement in Plame Leak
Dana Milbank and Carol D. Leonnig - Monday, October 31, 2005; Page A04 (yes, posted early, in advance of the actual newspaper)

Why these? The first opens with this:


A majority of Americans say the indictment of senior White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby signals broader ethical problems in the Bush administration, and nearly half say the overall level of honesty and ethics in the federal government has fallen since President Bush took office, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News survey.

The poll, conducted Friday night and yesterday, found that 55 percent of the public believes the Libby case indicates wider problems "with ethical wrongdoing" in the White House, while 41 percent believes it was an "isolated incident." And by a 3 to 1 ratio, 46 percent to 15 percent, Americans say the level of honesty and ethics in the government has declined rather than risen under Bush.


Well, that generated hundreds and hundreds of comments, all pointing out President Bush, when he assumed office back in 2000, promised to restore "honor and integrity" to the White House. He said it a lot. He held up his right hand and everything - it was very impressive, no more sex with chubby twenty-something female interns. He wasn't like that low-life Clinton fellow. And that, among other things, got him almost elected, or close enough so that he could be appointed.

Now the polling shows that most people, not just a cynical few, realize that was all a load of crap. There's not much "honor and integrity" on display in the White House these days. But there's not much sex, of course, unless you believe the rumors about Jeff Gannon.

The irony is obvious. Why add to it? A web search will give you many clever and not so clever comments. They're all variations on the same theme.

But the "national perception" has shifted. That should be noted.

The second item opens with this:


Democrats demanded yesterday that President Bush fire Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove and that the White House fully account for Vice President Cheney's role in the unmasking of CIA operative Valerie Plame, as Republicans acted to limit the political damage from Friday's indictment of Cheney's chief of staff.

Using the forum of the Sunday television talk shows, Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.) and other Democrats sought to portray the indictment of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby on Friday as part of a broader pattern of unethical - if not illegal - conduct by the administration. Republicans, while not defending Libby, asserted that the lack of other indictments indicated there was no conspiracy in the White House to punish an administration critic by identifying his wife as a CIA operative.

Reid, speaking on ABC's "This Week," called for apologies from Bush and Cheney, and sought Rove's resignation because of Bush's vow to dismiss anybody involved in the leak. Later, on CNN's "Late Edition," Reid repeated his call for Rove's dismissal four times.

"The president said anyone involved would be gone," Reid said. "And we now know that Official A is Karl Rove. He's still around. He should be let go." Reid added that if Bush "is a man of his word, Rove should be history."


And there was lots of comment on that - yes, make him keep his word, make him fire Rove, make him apologize.

Scanning all the reactions supporting this, or on the right, laughing at the idea (Rove has not been charged with anything), the best reaction somewhere was some lefty saying Bush would do this "when monkeys fly out my ass." That was pretty funny in that movie - but, yes, neither is likely. No apologies and firings, and no monkeys.

But Harry Reid, usually mild-manner and moderate - he looks like a worried banker from Akron - gets credit for what Bill Clinton himself suggests


Democrats can't be afraid to talk about hot-button issues ... and should fight back against personal attacks from conservatives if they want to regain power in Washington, former President Bill Clinton said Saturday.

"You can't say 'Please don't be mean to me. Please let me win sometimes.' Give me a break here," Clinton said. "If you don't want to fight for the future and you can't figure out how to beat these people then find something else to do."


Yep, there's decorum - you don't call names and go after the other guy's family - but then there's the current Democratic ploy, playing the whipped puppy-dog for sympathy, or remaining silent while you hope the other side self-destructs and you don't actually have to do or say anything. (And if the other side doesn't self-destruct and somehow recovers - then what?)

Reid's "attack" crosses no line. Short form? "You said this. Are you going to do what you said?"

That'll do. It's about time.

One assumes the other Democrats don't want to kick the president when he's down. Being nice? Fear of retribution from the Rove smear machine? Who knows?

But this is just "tough love" - something the right understands, and extols. It's how you treat irresponsible children who lie to you.

Curiously, Paul Begala, a former Clinton aide, and a Texan of all things, had some things to say on the 28th about this whole business with Rove and Libby and the whole crew in the White House, saying here this all gives him no schadenfreude - no sensible person likes seeing the presidency "besmirched" - and besides "the ultimate result of the alleged criminal conduct was to march 2,000 young heroes off to die in an unjust, unwise, unprovoked and unwarranted war."

This is no game, and it's no fun.

But he points out some facts it is well to remember. In the seven years of investigations during the Clinton administration, no senior Clinton White House official was ever even charged with wrongdoing. No one. No one was indicted. No was convicted of anything.


In fact, the highest-ranking Clinton official to be convicted of wrongdoing in connection with his public duties was the chief of staff to the Agriculture Secretary. Betcha five bucks you can't even name the Clinton Agriculture Secretary in question, much less his chief of staff. Unlike Nixon (whose Watergate crimes were manifest), unlike Reagan (whose White House was corrupted by the Iran-Contra crimes), unlike Bush 41 (who pardoned White House aides and Cabinet officers before they could testify against him), Bill Clinton presided over the most ethical White House staff in decades.


Well, the staff was clean. Clinton admitted he lied, under oath, about something that wasn't illegal, but rather dumb.

But remember this?


... George W. Bush campaigned on a pledge to "restore honor and decency to the Oval Office." He spoke of moms and dads on the campaign trail who showed him photos of their children and asked him to give them a president their kids could be proud of.

We all knew what he meant. With a wink and a nod he told us he wouldn't cheat on Laura. And after he took office Mr. Bush and his henchmen smeared the Clintonistas, falsely accusing them of vandalism and theft. They told the press that in this Oval Office the gentlemen would wear suits, the ladies, skirts. And no more paper coffee cups. Nothing but the finest bone china. The Bushies even claimed moral superiority because of their punctuality. Everything was designed and marketed to stress the virtue of the Bushies and the vice of the Clintonians. And it worked. In the first year of George W. Bush's presidency, one major media figure told my wife and me to our faces that the difference between the Clinton crowd and the Bush team was that, "They're just better people than you are. They're more loyal to their President, more patriotic, less self-interested and ambitious. They're just better people."


I wonder if Begala made up that last anecdote. It's perhaps too apt to be true - but it sounds true. It captures what seemed to be what the message was. And it wasn't subtle.

Now the VP's main man has been indicted and has resigned. More may or may not come of all this. Begala reminds us of the Clinton investigations - Whitewater, Filegate, Hillary's old Arkansas billing records, Vince Foster's suicide, the cattle futures thing with Hillary, the Buddhist temple thing with Gore, and all the rest.


Just to list the trumped-up Clinton "scandals" is to recall how trivial - and yet how destructive - they were. Innocent people were impoverished, reputations were damaged, careers derailed. But at least history can give the Clinton team a clean bill of ethical health. No White House was more thoroughly investigated - and more thoroughly exonerated.


And these guys get nailed right out of the gate? Most curious.

Okay, no one lied about extramarital sex. They smeared the Wilson family, exposed an undercover agent, and generally conned us all on the evidence Iraq was a threat, and one of them lied about what he was trying to do - connect a war critic who said the evidence of a nuclear threat was crap to the hated CIA - the CIA that was not as good as the special alternative intelligence agency they set up - Douglas Feith's Office of Special Plans, that had all those cool (but forged) documents from Italy that carried so much weight. They perhaps misled themselves, and certainly misled us, into this war. But no one lied about extramarital sex.

Does the poll noted in the Post mean the disposition of the masses has shifted, and the cat is out of the bag, so to speak? Will the majority view, that something is really wrong here, persist?

That's hard to say. With the president's approval rating in the high thirties in all the polling it is wise to consider that more than a third of us see no problem at all. That's pretty formidable.

As for Reid's "tough love" thing - will that have any reverberations across the country? That's also hard to say. But at least Reid actually stood up for something.

It's a start.


Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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