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April 4, 2004 - On getting your enemies but good....

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Of note Tuesday, Paul Krugman in the Times pulled together a lot of threads that have been a bit troubling.  In the play Lady Macbeth tells her husband not to worry – just get some sleep, because “sleep knits up the raveled sleeve of care.”  Well these loose threads will still be loose after any number of naps.  And when awake, one notices such things. 

See This Isn't America
Paul Krugman, The New York Times, Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Krugman opens with this:


Last week an opinion piece in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz about the killing of Sheik Ahmed Yassin said, "This isn't America; the government did not invent intelligence material nor exaggerate the description of the threat to justify their attack."

So even in Israel, George Bush's America has become a byword for deception and abuse of power. 


Now that is funny!  And this is our ally.  The implication is the game is over.  The whole world is onto us - as in the title of the 1947 Sartre play, Les Jeux Son Fait. 

Krugman’s point is that the administration's reaction to Richard Clarke's Against All Enemies provides more evidence of “something rotten in the state of our government.”  Yeah, echo Hamlet, Paul. 

Krugman contends that among experts, what Clarke says about Bush's terrorism policy isn't controversial.  The facts that terrorism was placed on the back burner before 9/11 and that Bush blamed Iraq despite the lack of evidence are confirmed by many sources - including Bush at War, by Bob Woodward.  That’s the book I called a puff piece recently.  And Krugman cites sources other than Clarke (and Paul O’Neill) saying Bush had a Jones for Saddam Hussein and Iraq that keep us from being overly worried about Al Qaeda and all that state-free terrorism stuff.  Yes, Monday in USA Today you get stuff like this - "In 2002, troops from the Fifth Special Forces Group who specialize in the Middle East were pulled out of the hunt for Osama bin Laden to prepare for their next assignment: Iraq.  Their replacements were troops with expertise in Spanish cultures."


Yeah.  That helps.  Who knows?  Spain may be on the other side after all?

So, if the facts Clarke brings up, facts other sources confirm, cannot be disputed, the mode to deal with these facts becomes character assassination. 

How does the press handle this?  Here’s Krugman:


Some journalists seem, finally, to have caught on.  Last week an Associated Press news analysis noted that such personal attacks were "standard operating procedure" for this administration and cited "a behind-the-scenes campaign to discredit Richard Foster," the Medicare actuary who revealed how the administration had deceived Congress about the cost of its prescription drug bill. 

But other journalists apparently remain ready to be used.  On CNN, Wolf Blitzer told his viewers that unnamed officials were saying that Mr. Clarke "wants to make a few bucks, and that [in] his own personal life, they're also suggesting that there are some weird aspects in his life as well."


Yes, I see today all over the net the rumblings are out there that Clarke is secretly a homosexual.  Well, Bob Novak and Ann Coulter have already started the campaign to call him a racist who hates black folks, particularly black women.  (See last week’s March 28, 2004: Public Relations and Political Gain - Getting the Tone Right for that.)

But is it really wrong for Bush and his crew to use its control of the government to intimidate potential critics?  Senator Bill Frist suggests that Clarke may have committed perjury and wonders if previous testimony to congress should be declassified to see if this is so.  Clarke says fine, declassify it all.  Ha!  But then this from NBC News –


U.S. officials told NBC News that the full record of Clarke’s testimony two years ago would not be declassified.  They said that at the request of the White House, however, the CIA was going through the transcript to see what could be declassified, with an eye toward pointing out contradictions. 


Yeah, cut and paste is much more fair.  Skip the silly context, rearrange the sequence and shuffle the words.  Pretty blatant, but folks will love it.  It’s what this gay racist queen deserves?  Maybe so. 
Krugman points out that this perjury business reminds folks of the White House's reaction to revelations by the former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill: an immediate investigation into whether he had revealed classified information.  He didn’t.  The best they could come up with is that the stuff SHOULD have been classified but, well, really wasn’t.  Paul implicitly SHOULD have thought about that – damned traitor!  And yes, Krugman is right - the “alacrity with which this investigation was opened was, of course, in sharp contrast with the administration's evident lack of interest in finding out who leaked the identity of the CIA operative Valerie Plame to Bob Novak.”

Oh well.  The leak was a felony.  So what?  They'll get around to that issue later. 

Anything else, Paul? 


… A few examples: according to The Hill, Republican lawmakers threatened to cut off funds for the General Accounting Office unless it dropped its lawsuit against Dick Cheney.  The Washington Post says Representative Michael Oxley told lobbyists that "a Congressional probe might ease if it replaced its Democratic lobbyist with a Republican." Tom DeLay used the Homeland Security Department to track down Democrats trying to prevent redistricting in Texas.  And Medicare is spending millions of dollars on misleading ads for the new drug benefit — ads that look like news reports and also serve as commercials for the Bush campaign. 


Yeah, yeah.  That’s politics.  Terrorism is more important. 

Krugman gives us this:


On the terrorism front, here's one story that deserves special mention.  One of the few successful post-9/11 terror prosecutions — a case in Detroit — seems to be unraveling.  The government withheld information from the defense, and witnesses unfavorable to the prosecution were deported (by accident, the government says).  After the former lead prosecutor complained about the Justice Department's handling of the case, he suddenly found himself facing an internal investigation — and someone leaked the fact that he was under investigation to the press. 


Hey, you don’t mess with John Ashcroft.  John Ashcroft says his only king is Jesus.  The two of them make a team you don’t want to pick a fight with. 

Krugman asks where this will all end and quotes John Dean (remember him from Watergate?) in his new book Worse Than Watergate - "I've been watching all the elements fall into place for two possible political catastrophes, one that will take the air out of the Bush-Cheney balloon and the other, far more disquieting, that will take the air out of democracy."

But not if we sleep through it all. 


But Condoleezza Rice will finally testify to the 9-11 Commission this week. 


So the smears will end.  Just let every talk about what they knew and did on the 9-11 matters.


Not exactly.


This weekend Rich Bond, the former chairman of the Republican National Committee, raised things up a notch with comments in Newsday:


"The woman oozes expertise and sincerity," said former Republican National chairman Rich Bond.  "I'm glad the White House came around to allow her to say publicly what she's already told the commission privately.  The old adage is, 'Get it out, get it out, get it out.'   If the Democrats want to slap around an African American woman, let them try."


Oh, I get it.  Question what Rice says about what she did or didn’t do and you’re a racist misogynist.  Got it.


And anyway, Bond knows it’s all image, not substance – Rice’s testimony will turn things around:


"I think Condi Rice on her worst day is worth ten of Richard Clarke on his best day," Bond said.  "The imagery of George Bush standing on the rubble of 9/11 overrides anything Clarke can say."


Yeah, don’t let facts get in the way.


John Dean does have a point.


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