You know a guy is a screwup when incompetence is the least of his problems. It’s not that President Bush is trying to do what’s good for America, and failing; it’s that he doesn’t give a bleep about what’s good for America. Bush’s only concern is Bush. If you want proof, just consider how he plays with national security.
For crass political reasonsâ€”namely to advance his position on the National Security Agency spying storyâ€”the president chose to use a speech to the National Guard Association to disclose details of a 2002 â€œshoe bombâ€ plot to blow up the U.S. Bank Tower, the tallest building in Los Angeles. While the plot had been revealed in general terms in the past, the White House this week arranged for Bushâ€™s counterterrorism adviser, Frances Fragos Townsend, to explain to reporters in a conference call exactly the kind of details that Goss claimed on the op-ed page helped the enemy. â€œWe are at risk of losing a key battle,â€ Goss wrote. â€œThe battle to protect our classification system.â€
That system is at particular risk when it is exploited for political purposes.
Presidents can declassify anything they like, of course. But what other purpose could Bush have had than to “remind” us that we’re supposed to be afraid of terrorists? “[L]etâ€™s be clear” Alter writes, “on what this was: a deliberate effort to use declassification for partisan purposes, in this case, defending the administrationâ€™s policy on NSA surveillance, which Karl Rove says publicly will be a big part of the 2006 midterm campaign.”
Townsend employed the Bushie trick of placing dots in a way that assumes connection, much the way Bush and his surrogates linked Saddam Hussein to 9/11 in the public mind without explicitly stating there was a connection. In this case, Townsend did not claim the NSA program had anything to do with foiling the Los Angeles plot. Yet Townsend left a trail of breadcrumbs between Los Angeles and the NSA nonetheless. “[W]e use all available sources and methods in the intelligence community,” she siad, “but we have to protect them. So I’m not going to talk about what ones we did or didn’t use in this particular case.”
Dutifully, Fox News host John Gibson followed the crumbs. As Media Matters reports,
Gibson suggested a link on the February 9 edition of Fox News’ The Big Story with John Gibson. When guest P.J. Crowley, former special assistant to President Clinton, noted that the Los Angeles terror plot was foiled by the CIA, not the NSA, Gibson responded: “They’re the same kind of thing … the same animal” Later in the program, while purporting to “[c]onnect the dots,” Gibson lumped together the alleged Library Tower plot and the “controversy over the use of high-tech spying.”
Kool-aiders across America are now certain that the NSA spy program stopped the bombing of Los Angeles, and how can those soft-headed libruhls be so stupid not to trust the President? Don’t they remember 9/11?
Yeah, just like we remember Iraq didn’t have anything to do with it. But let’s go on …
Vice President Dick Cheney bitterly complains that national security leaks are endangering America. Unless, of course, he’s doing the leaking, tapping Scooter Libby to reveal national security information to punish a political critic.
President Bush says he will not talk about specific security threats to America. Unless, of course, he needs to talk about a specific threat to Los Angeles to confuse the public and gain some cheap political advantage.
The White House says it has done everything possible to protect the homeland. Unless, of course, it hasn’t. Then it can lie to hide the callous portrait of Incurious George in Crawford as New Orleans drowned.
The attorney general can claim that torture and warrantless wiretapping are legal, and can mislead Congress. Unless, of course, enough Republicans stand up and say, as Arlen Specter told The Washington Post, that if that lickspittle lawyer thinks all this is legal, “he’s smoking Dutch Cleanser.”
The president doesn’t know the Indian Taker Jack Abramoff. Unless, of course, W. has met with him a dozen times, invited him to Crawford and joked with him about his kids.
The Bushies can continue to claim that the invasion of Iraq was justified because Saddam was a threat to our security. Unless, of course, he wasn’t, and the Cheney cabal was simply abusing the trust of Americans to push a wild-eyed political scheme.
A pattern, as they say, emerges.