Monday, October 31, 2005

Herbert & Krugman Re: The Lying Liars

Like a dorm full of nurses, the columnists at the New York Times seem to have ended up on the same cycle. Yesterday they pointed fingers at Dick "still getting a check from Halliburton" Cheney. Today, Bob Herbert and Paul Krugman focus on mendacity in the White House and its destructive legacy.


The New York Times
October 31, 2005
Op-Ed Columnist
Smoke Gets in Our Eyes
By BOB HERBERT


There's a reason so many top officials of the Bush administration treat the truth as if it were kryptonite.

More than anything else, the simple truth has the potential to destroy the Bush gang.

Scooter Libby was one of the most powerful figures in the administration, Dick Cheney's most highly trusted aide and a champion of the wholesale flim-flammery that led us into the crucible of Iraq. I haven't heard anyone express surprise that he would lie in the service of the administration.

But if the federal indictment returned last week in Washington is to be believed, Mr. Libby lied with the kind of reckless disregard for his own interests that would suggest he had become unhinged. It was as if he'd waved red flags in front of the grand jury and cried, "Come get me!"

You will hardly ever hear of someone who is skilled in the art of government, and a lawyer to boot, telling the kind of transparent lies that Mr. Libby is accused of telling the F.B.I. and a federal grand jury.

The indictment says, for example, that he told the feds he'd had a discussion with N.B.C.'s Tim Russert in which Mr. Russert asserted that "all the reporters" knew that Valerie Wilson, the wife of the former diplomat Joseph Wilson, worked for the C.I.A. In fact, according to the indictment and Mr. Russert, no such discussion occurred.

Mr. Libby himself was spreading the word about Ms. Wilson and, as Patrick Fitzgerald, the special counsel investigating the case, asserted, "he lied about it afterwards, under oath and repeatedly."

Who knows why Mr. Libby did what he did. Misplaced loyalty? An irrepressible need to be punished for his sins? Maybe he's just a dope. Of greater consequence for the republic is the fact that Mr. Libby is no hapless functionary who somehow lost his way. He's a symptom, the hacking cough that should alert us to a dangerous national disease, and that's the Bush administration's culture of deceit.

Scooter Libby was the main man of the most powerful vice president in the history of the United States. The most important aspect of the prosecution of Mr. Libby for perjury and obstruction of justice is the tremendous spotlight it is likely to shine on the way this administration does its business - its relentless, almost pathological, undermining of the truth, and its ruthless treatment of individuals who cling to the old-fashioned notion that the truth matters.

Condoleezza Rice, for example, gave us nightmare fantasies of mushroom clouds and declared on television that aluminum tubes seized en route to Iraq "were only really suited for nuclear weapons programs." Perhaps she forgot that a year earlier her own staff had been advised that experts had serious doubts about that. In any event, she would be promoted to secretary of state.

Gen. Eric Shinseki met a different fate when, as chief of staff of the Army, he dared to speak an uncomfortable truth to a Senate committee: that it would take several hundred thousand soldiers to pacify postwar Iraq. There was no promotion for him. His long and honorable career evaporated.

That's the game plan of this administration, to fool the people as much as possible (not just on the war, but on taxes, Social Security, energy policy and so on) and punish, if not destroy, anyone who tries to counter the madness with the truth.

Most members of the administration are more artful than Scooter Libby when they send out the smoke that is designed to hide the truth on important matters. They dissemble and give themselves wiggle room, like Dick Cheney when he said, truthfully but deceptively on "Meet the Press," that he didn't know Joseph Wilson. The vice president didn't know him personally, but he sure knew what was going on.

The art of Bush-speak is to achieve the effect of a lie without actually getting caught in a lie. That's what administration officials did when they deliberately fostered the impression that Saddam Hussein had ties to Al Qaeda and thus was involved in the Sept. 11 attacks. This is an insidious way of governing, and the opposite of what the United States should be about.

It should tell you something that the administration's resident sleazemeister, Karl Rove, who is up to his ears in this mess but has managed so far to escape indictment, continues to be viewed not as an embarrassment, but as President Bush's most important and absolutely indispensable asset.


The New York Times
October 31, 2005
Op-Ed Columnist
Ending the Fraudulence
By PAUL KRUGMAN


Let me be frank: it has been a long political nightmare. For some of us, daily life has remained safe and comfortable, so the nightmare has merely been intellectual: we realized early on that this administration was cynical, dishonest and incompetent, but spent a long time unable to get others to see the obvious. For others - above all, of course, those Americans risking their lives in a war whose real rationale has never been explained - the nightmare has been all too concrete.

So is the nightmare finally coming to an end? Yes, I think so. I have no idea whether Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor, will bring more indictments in the Plame affair. In any case, I don't share fantasies that Dick Cheney will be forced to resign; even Karl Rove may keep his post. One way or another, the Bush administration will stagger on for three more years. But its essential fraudulence stands exposed, and it's hard to see how that exposure can be undone.

What do I mean by essential fraudulence? Basically, I mean the way an administration with an almost unbroken record of policy failure has nonetheless achieved political dominance through a carefully cultivated set of myths.

The record of policy failure is truly remarkable. It sometimes seems as if President Bush and Mr. Cheney are Midases in reverse: everything they touch - from Iraq reconstruction to hurricane relief, from prescription drug coverage to the pursuit of Osama - turns to crud. Even the few apparent successes turn out to contain failures at their core: for example, real G.D.P. may be up, but real wages are down.

The point is that this administration's political triumphs have never been based on its real-world achievements, which are few and far between. The administration has, instead, built its power on myths: the myth of presidential leadership, the ugly myth that the administration is patriotic while its critics are not. Take away those myths, and the administration has nothing left.

Well, Katrina ended the leadership myth, which was already fading as the war dragged on. There was a time when a photo of Mr. Bush looking out the window of Air Force One on 9/11 became an iconic image of leadership. Now, a similar image of Mr. Bush looking out at a flooded New Orleans has become an iconic image of his lack of connection. Pundits may try to resurrect Mr. Bush's reputation, but his cult of personality is dead - and the inscription on the tombstone reads, "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job."

Meanwhile, the Plame inquiry, however it winds up, has ended the myth of the administration's monopoly on patriotism, which was also fading in the face of the war.

Apologists can shout all they like that no laws were broken, that hardball politics is nothing new, or whatever. The fact remains that officials close to both Mr. Cheney and Mr. Bush leaked the identity of an undercover operative for political reasons. Whether or not that act was illegal, it was clearly unpatriotic.

And the Plame affair has also solidified the public's growing doubts about the administration's morals. By a three-to-one margin, according to a Washington Post poll, the public now believes that the level of ethics and honesty in the government has declined rather than risen under Mr. Bush.

So the Bush administration has lost the myths that sustained its mojo, and with them much of its power to do harm. But the nightmare won't be fully over until two things happen.

First, politicians will have to admit that they were misled. Second, the news media will have to face up to their role in allowing incompetents to pose as leaders and political apparatchiks to pose as patriots.

It's a sad commentary on the timidity of most Democrats that even now, with Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell's former chief of staff, telling us how policy was "hijacked" by the Cheney-Rumsfeld "cabal," it's hard to get leading figures to admit that they were misled into supporting the Iraq war. Kudos to John Kerry for finally saying just that last week.

And as for the media: these days, there is much harsh, justified criticism of the failure of major news organizations, this one included, to exert due diligence on rationales for the war. But the failures that made the long nightmare possible began much earlier, during the weeks after 9/11, when the media eagerly helped our political leaders build up a completely false picture of who they were.

So the long nightmare won't really be over until journalists ask themselves: what did we know, when did we know it, and why didn't we tell the public?

4 Comments:

At 2:30 AM, Anonymous Kassy said...

Thanks

 
At 7:40 AM, Blogger JustAGirl said...

Oh my god, my coffee shot out of my nose when I read your intro:

Like a dorm full of nurses, the columnists at the New York Times seem to have ended up on the same cycle.

I regularly (no pun intended) link to your blog for the NY Times articles. Thanks for making the columns available to all.

 
At 10:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for making Krugman, Dowd, Herbert, et al, available to the starving masses. We love you.
OF

 
At 4:58 PM, Anonymous rose said...

Two things Krugman is wrong about in my opinion. Everythin they touch turns to death, not crud, and the media eagerly annointed Bush the nominee and then the future pres long before 9-11. They did it in 1999, because they could, because they liked him, because they didn't like Gore. If you ask them they admit it. They lied, they knew it, they didn't care.

 

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