I don’t know about you, but I for one am getting sick and tired of all these right-wing hacks righteously and publicly jumping ship on the Bush administration and the national nightmare they’ve been so kind as to bequeath to us this last awful decade.
This has been going on for some time, of course, but the revelations of the last week or two have been especially hard to swallow.
What you’re supposed to read in between the lines of this Bush-bashing is a sub-text along the lines of "I had nothing to do with this disaster!", or, at the very least, "Gosh, I had no idea it would turn out like this!"
Yeah, well, pardon me if I reject this new line of garbage from the likes of Alan Greenspan and Sandra Day O’Connor. I liked the old line of garbage much better. Whatever else you could say about it, it reeked a lot less of rank hypocrisy.
The list of the deluded publicly waking up to what the regressive movement has wrought at home and abroad is long and seems to grow larger each month. Generally, the pattern is the same. Somebody who was highly instrumental in creating this Category 5 destructive force of nature decides that their conscience can’t quite handle the amp load anymore. So they go public with inside dope on the machine they previously had themselves helped to ram pall-mall into our bodies and our hearts. The White House smear machine then goes into hyper-drive, and the offending former-insider is derided as somehow mentally unbalanced or the equivalent, just like Rove did to McCain in South Carolina’s 2000 primary. Meanwhile, something (and, boy, wouldn’t we all like to know what) gets said behind the scenes, and next thing you know there’s some sheepish humiliating half-retraction. It pretty much always goes down that way.
John DiIulio provides an early example. An academic brought in to the administration to run the pander party charade of tossing electoral spoils to the religious right, DiIulio had already had enough by the end of 2002 and became perhaps the first administration insider to risk the Wrath of Rove by breaking ranks with this famously closed clan of mafia clones and their oath of omertà. His apostasy didn’t last long.
In an interview published in Esquire, DiIulio made the ridiculous mistake of telling the truth about the operation inside the White House, and even doing so with a well-deserved nasty little rhetorical flourish: "There is no precedent in any modern White House for what is going on in this one: a complete lack of a policy apparatus", he said. "What you've got is everything, and I mean everything, being run by the political arm. It's the reign of the Mayberry Machiavellis."
Mayberry Machiavellis!! Oooooohh, I like that! But then, of course, DiIulio got The Call ("Please hold for the Vice President of the United States"). Next thing you know, it’s this from his spokesperson: "John DiIulio agrees that his criticisms were groundless and baseless due to poorly chosen words and examples. He sincerely apologizes and is deeply remorseful." Hey, that’s a good one too! DiIulio goes overnight from "everything, and I mean everything" to "poorly chosen examples". It’s a bit hard to imagine how one could choose poorly when everything you could possibly choose from (and I mean everything) was in the same category, but perhaps those photos the White House has of him doing strange things with cute and furry little animals or the like would explain his sudden and radical change of heart. Or maybe it’s just a coincidence.
A year later, former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill reprised DiIulio’s embarrassing act with one of his own which was even more foolish. Having trashed the Bush administration in a book written by Ron Suskind, based on interviews with O’Neill, within 24 hours of its publication Perfidious Paulie did a volte face of which Jittery John DiIulio must have been envious. He tells Katie Couric, "You know, people are trying to make the case that I said the president was planning war in Iraq early in the administration". Well, yeah, Paul, but only cause you did say that. "Actually, there was a continuation of work that had been going on in the Clinton administration with the notion that there needed to be regime change in Iraq." Uh-huh. That can happen, you know. That whole continuation of work thing – that can happen.
Couric: "You say nowhere did you ever see evidence that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction."
O'Neill: "Did I?"
O’Neill had also described Bush as like "a blind man in a roomful of deaf people". But then came, ahem, The Call. ("The Vice President will see you now. Take the elevator down to the triple-secret basement labyrinth, then follow the hallway to the extreme right until you get to the concrete-reinforced woodshed. You’ll know you’re there when you hear the screams.") Yep. Way to go, O’Neill, you lovely exemplar of that private sector gumption and GOP straight talk we’re always hearing about. Now it’s, "I used some vivid language that if I could take it back, I'd take that back because it's become the controversial centerpiece. And I'm afraid that it will cause people to have an impression without actually reading the book." Then it gets even worse: "This is Ron Suskind's book. This is not my book." And, "It's not my intention to be personally critical of the president or of anyone else."
Gosh, no. We can’t have that. I mean, even if the guy did lie an entire country into a war which has now taken over a million lives, and even if he did it by being willfully blind and surrounding himself with deaf sycophants, we really shouldn’t be personally critical of the president, should we? At least in O’Neill’s case we know how they bought him off, with the lame threat of prosecution based on his releasing of a classified document which had already become public. This from the very same people who blew Valerie Plame’s cover for partisan political purposes, mind you.
Richard Clarke became the next example, about a year later. Clarke exposed the utter failures of the administration in the months before 9/11, as it obsessed over Iraq and couldn’t have cared less about al Qaeda or terrorism. Clarke even apologized to the families of 9/11 victims – the only official to do so – noting that, "Your government failed you". Predictably, the White House smear machine went into full court press mode, though their efforts at coordination were somewhat less than stellar (I think Rove was off wrecking some other country that day). Cheney told Rush Limbaugh that Clarke was out of the loop on counter-terrorism efforts while Rice was simultaneously claiming that he was at the center of those operations. Meanwhile, the utterly morality-bereft Bill Frist joined the chorus by trotting out a bogus accusation against Clarke that could not be refuted, as it was based on classified documents. Cute.
Unlike others who dared to criticize the administration, Clarke never folded under the pressure of the counterattack, and he deserves a lot of credit for his honesty and integrity, and especially his courage, knowing – as he must have – what was in store for him. My only question for Clarke, as for the rest of these folks is, what the hell took you so long to figure all this out? These are supposedly some of the smartest people around. So what in the world was Clarke doing – as he admitted – voting for a buffoon like George W. Bush in 2000?
Others would follow. Surely Colin Powell will have his own personal Circle of Hell reserved for him, having committed the Sin of the Century, repudiating all his alleged principles and all the dues that he had supposedly once paid as a pawn in somebody else’s misbegotten war for lies. It was bad enough that Powell was silent at a time when he was literally the one person in the world who might have put the brakes on the Iraq travesty (and he knew it was a travesty) before it happened. The Bush Mafia will smear anybody who crosses them, including triple-amputee Vietnam vets or six-year POW residents of the Hanoi Hilton. Heck, they might have even have tried to smear Powell, had he resigned in protest in early 2003, warning the world of the lies and the danger ahead. Indeed, Rove might even have seen it as some sort of sporting professional challenge. Could he prove that he was worthy of playing in the same league as Goebbels by taking down Powell the Icon (nobody was ever quite sure what for, but that’s another story), their very own Secretary of State?! Rove’s gambit for greatness in the Liar’s League of Lasting Infamy wouldn’t likely have mattered, though. It’s hard to see how the war could have been sold in the face of Powell’s fervent opposition.