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April 11, 2004 - Allergic to Rice? Some Reactions

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The Rice Testimony



The big event this week was Condoleezza Rice’s sworn public testimony to the 9-11 Commission.  I didn’t watch much of it, as it began at six in the morning out here.  I wasn’t in the mood. 

Much has been said about it, and written.  Sigh. 

Typical is Eleanor Clift in this piece - No Apologies - a web-only item on MSNBC.  The subheading is this: “Condi never expressed remorse during her 9/11 testimony.  And Bush can’t bring himself to admit he was wrong about Iraq.  Welcome to a quagmire.”

Yeah, yeah. 

Here’s the opening:

April 9 - It would have been nice to hear an apology or even some remorse from Condoleezza Rice.  But that’s not this administration’s style.  She stuck to the party line that President Bush did all he could before 9/11, a position that is not supported by the facts. 

Rice appeared rattled when Watergate prosecutor Richard Ben-Veniste confronted her with the title of the presidential daily briefing (PDB) forwarded to Bush at his Crawford ranch on Aug.  6, 2001: “Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States.” Rice called it “historical information based on old reporting” that did not warn of new attacks.  Ben-Veniste countered that it established a pattern of suspicious activities and challenged the administration to declassify the memo so the American people could decided its relevance for themselves. 

The exchange is reminiscent of the country music song “My Lyin’ Eyes,” where the cuckolded husband has to decide whether he believes what he sees or what he’s being told.  Even if the memo is a rundown of bin Laden’s greatest hits, it arrived in the midst of a summer when terror czar Richard Clarke and others in the intelligence community were warning the White House something big was about to happen.  Even if Rice’s explanation is legitimate, keeping the memo from the public and the press gives the impression the administration is hiding something. 

No kidding.  John Stewart on “The Daily Show” was better – with just his facial expressions. 

But somewhat later Clift gets to the bigger issue – the present and not the past -


This is the week Iraq spun out of control.  And where is Bush?   He’s on a weeklong spring break at his ranch.  He seems increasingly disengaged.  Perhaps behind the scenes he’s calling Rumsfeld and demanding to know what’s going on. 

When he finds out, he owes the country an explanation, and not just a speech, a full-blown news conference where he engages the press and lays out what is happening.  The Iraqi people are supposed to be our friends.  We liberated them.  Why are they fighting us?   And, Mr.  President, it’s not enough to say, “They don’t love freedom.”


Isn’t this a bit of belaboring the obvious?  

Over at the blog “Sadly, No” we get to the real core of the matter with this on “Moral Clarity.”  That’s the real issue.  Bush never changes his mind, and has explained, over and over, he acts based on his “gut reaction.”  One must be very careful mixing pretzels and fried pork rinds. 


Much has been made of Bush's vaunted Moral Clarity™. 

Once the First Gut forms its impressions, it doesn't need the guidance of a moral compass, or to be checked against reality with elitist crap like facts, disagreeable intel or even newspapers.  Bush intentionally surrounds himself with sycophants who find creative ways to corroborate what the God-endorsed First Gut "feels" about complex situations.  The ones who can no longer do so without becoming unethical or wilfully incompetent are termed "disloyal" and thrown to the fire-breathing BushCo attack machine.  For all their concern about cultural decency, isn't it remarkable that this morally perfected administration has such difficulty simply being decent to others?   (I don't mean understanding or, Heaven forfend, kind -- just not behaving like mindlessly vicious jerks.)

Any criticism or "disloyalty" to the First Gut, when taken outside the inner circle to threaten the sacred Presidential Image, mobilizes every skill and resource the administration can muster faster than news of, say, impending terrorist attacks.  (Contrast how BushCo flopped around like uncoordinated buffoons for months when it was a mere case of terror warnings, but coalesced into an efficient well-oiled machine when Job One was tearing down rogue critics like Paul O'Neill, Joseph Wilson or Richard Clarke, among others.) Maintaining image is something they know and respect.  Objectively weighing intelligence ...  not so much. 

The Preznit's vaunted Moral Clarity™ is largely smoke and mirrors.  It's the work of more resources applied towards image than real leadership and governance, exaggerated by an echo chamber that attaches heroism to distinctly unheroic qualities: disengagement, lack of objective analysis, an almost comical inability to accept responsibility or be accountable for his and their actions, and a con man's slippery avoidance of unscripted, unchoreographed public appearances. 


Yes, of course this is over the top.  A bit too true, but over the top…. 
And we also get some thoughts on the season:


As Easter Week coincides with many other traditions' time of moral reckoning and this being Good Friday, billions the world over do recalibrate their moral compasses by weighing their shortcomings and repenting. 

Except George. 

He doesn't apologize for stuff because Moral Clarity™ means never having to say you're sorry.  If you support him, you don't have to apologize either.  Republican politicians or pundits bust their buttons with pride when the Preznit "doesn't back down", sticks to a reckless self-defeating course, or "isn't apologizing", especially when insulting the UN or dealing with those effete Frenchies.  Despite badly needing international help in Iraq and on his own War on Terror and Stuff, the more shabbily he treated real allies who doubted The Word of George -- sorry, Eritrea but I'm thinking outside the fig leaf -- the more his boorish base liked it.  The mainstream media dutifully cooperates with maintaining this horrifying approach to complex issues.  The President isn't backing down ...  the President isn't apologizing ...  the President is resolute ...  The President is sticking to his guns. 

Today, as the hooded penitents make the last leg of their journey to atonement, we remember that even Christ atoned for his sins.  Jesus -- a model Christian, a good observant Jew, a revered prophet to Muslims, an earthbound Bodhisatva to Buddhists and Hindus, Paganity's sacrificial lamb -- faced his moral struggles, as we all do in the material world, as all divine beings made flesh do in the material world. 

It's the continual struggle between the needs of the flesh and the sublime pull of spirit required in every religious tradition.  In religious Christian language, it's passion, which means "suffering" or more specifically, struggle (just as compassion means to suffer/struggle along with another), or crusade, literally, to bear the cross.  Muslims call the daily struggle to be a better person jihad.  In German, the word is kampf, now inextricably associated with a doctrine devoid of the constant weighing and recalibration that should accompany the daily, very human struggle even divinely inspired beings endure to be better humans (never mind full-fledged deities.) Jesus never considered himself so perfected -- so possessed of Moral Clarity™ -- to stone a sinner, and his last moment of life on earth was one of doubt and weighing.  He suffered, struggled, atoned and was redeemed. 

Only God-appointed Preznits and his fervent disciples never apologize, never recalibrate, never examine their actions in the light of new facts and evolving wisdom.  That would be backing down or worse, look like backing down.  Wishy washy.  Murky.  Simply being Morally Clear excuses whatever wrong they engage in, whether it's lying, extortion, bribery, stealing their opponents' private correspondence, covering up wrongdoing and vitally needed health information, and inflicting massive death and chaos on people who posed no threat. 


And on it goes.  Click the link if you want to read it all. 

Well, the nice thing about web logs (blogs) is you can lay it all out. 


Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
The inclusion of any text from others is quotation
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