It’s a tossup in my mind as to whether it serves one’s interest in greater measure to be incompetent, dishonest, purposely ignorant, ideologically and/or religiously obsessed, cavalier about the loss of human lives and the destruction of tens and hundreds of thousands of families, fiscally promiscuous, or sexually promiscuous with innocent 16-year-olds, and hence, quite possibly guilty of statutory rape, to rise in the modern Republican Party. This sex scandal is a pretty good example of a Big Story to which I have absolutely nothing of use to contribute, though I did receive this kinda funny list in the mail this morning.
What is currently driving me the craziest, however, are the variations on this story. The upshot is this. Tenet briefed Condi Rice about a potentially catastrophic terrorist attack on the United States on July 10, 2001. Rice ignored the briefing, just as she and Bush both ignored the August 6 “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US” memo, when Bush told the CIA briefer who delivered the memo to him that he had “covered his ass” and then went fishing for the rest of the day. Rice not only ignored the briefing, but also misled the 9-11 Commission and then lied when confronted with the evidence by Bob Woodward. Add her name to the long list of Bush administration officials who will leave office with the blood of thousands of innocents on her hands, and who was promoted by Bush for exactly that reason. Greg Mitchell has more here. Of course Rice should be fired, and perhaps tried, but instead she will be given the Presidential Medal of Freedom and Bush will run another campaign on how Democrats cannot be trusted to protect you from the terrorists he’s created.
Be sure to read Eric Alterman’s whole column.
Judging by Memeorandum, at the moment national security issues are being outblogged by the Foley scandal by a wide margin.
I think this could a mistake. I also wonder if someone in the White House (initials K.R.) had a hand in tipping off the press about Foley. Yeah, I know, it’s a stretch, and I’m paranoid. But from the Rove perspective, throwing some congressmen under the bus with a sex scandal might be better than having the nation’s attention on the Bush Administration’s flaming national security incompetence.
Although I also disagree with John Dickerson — Foley’s homosexuality is not the issue. And, at this point, Foley’s behavior is no longer a political issue, since he is no longer a congressman, and out-of-control sexual predation is not an exclusively Republican problem. The issue is whether other Republican congressman tolerated having a sexual predator in their midst. The issue is whether they knew about his behavior and looked the other way, even covered up for him. That cannot be tolerated.
And don’t miss Glenn Greenwald:
In need of moral absolution and support from a respected and admired figure who possesses moral authority among Hastert’s morally upstanding Republican base, to whom does Hastert turn? A priest or respected reverend? An older wise political statesman with a reputation for integrity and dignity? No, there is only one person with sufficient moral credibility among the increasingly uncomfortable moralistic Republican base who can give Hastert the blessing he needs:
There’s a social-psychological phenomenon, I read somewhere, in which people who talk a lot about morality are perceived as being moral, even if their behavior says otherwise. Conversely, people who don’t talk much about morality are not perceived as being particularly moral, even if they’re as upright as the Washington Monument. I suspect the same phenomenon applies to people who talk tough.
Bottom line: the Republicans’ reputation as the guardians of moral values and the Republicans’ reputation as the guardians of national security are both so much fluff. All talk, no walk.
And, the more I think about it, the more I believe the Dennis Hastert story and the Condi Rice story are essentially the same story. It’s the story of people who, for whatever reason, were just plain not doing what they should have been doing, either to protect the congressional pages or the nation.
The difference is that, somehow, the Bush Administration managed to hide their failure and incompetence behind a facade of strength and resolve and toughness. And the very people whose foreign policy judgments have proved to be wrong, time and time again, continue to get away with painting their opposition as incompetent and untrustworthy.
The question of why these people failed interests me less than the question of how we change public perception. We can argue endlessly about whether the Bushies failed to act on the pre-9/11 warnings because they were incompetent (my choice) or whether they made a cold calculation that some domestic terrorism would work to their political advantage, or for some other reason we have yet to uncover. And I have no way to know if Dennis Hastert failed to separate Mark Foley from the pages because he didn’t care, or because he was more focused on keeping Congress in Republican hands, or out of the psychological fog that all too often causes people not to notice sexual predation.
What matters is that the Bush Administration has a history of really bad judgments on national security and foreign policy and do not deserve the nation’s trust to guard the nation. What matters is that Republicans are not uniquely virtuous and do not deserve the nation’s trust to guard moral values. (As if guarding moral values were the government’s job, anyway; I say it isn’t.)
Yesterday’s Countdown had a brilliant clip of rightie talking points on Foley (at Crooks & Liars, natch). They’re falling back on their traditional argument — The Dems did it too. The hard-core Right will buy this, of course, but I can only hope the bulk of American voters, looking on, see how truly pathetic this is.
But the most fundamental issue here is the misperception, the myth, of Bush Administration competence and Republican virtue. Are scales truly falling from eyes, or are we liberals still just talking to ourselves?