Wednesday, July 23, 2003

But it would be wrong
Assuming, heaven forbid, that any of us were inclined to look for the weakest member of the Bush herd to bring down into a maelstrom of journalistic snapping teeth and slashing claws, who would we go after? We all have favorites that we would like to see chewed up, but who really is the most vulnerable? Gene Lyons might have the answer:
[A]ccording to the White House, ...national security advisor Condoleeza Rice [was too busy to read the entire October National Intelligence Estimate]. She's supposed to be the brains of the operation, Bush's intellectual nanny. The former provost of Stanford University, we're told, skipped the footnotes where the strongest cautions were found. Assuming purely for the sake of argument that we believe this astonishing excuse, exactly what does the woman do all day? Have we reached the point where we expect American men and women to commit their lives and sacred honor on the basis of what Bob Somerby calls "Cliff's Notes" intelligence?

But the reality, of course, is that Rice's story simply cannot be believed. CIA director Tenet had personally warned her chief deputy Stephen Hadley off the African uranium tale on two documented occasions in October 2002. Nor is this the first time Rice has been caught uttering improbable stories in defense of her boss. Seemingly above criticism, it was Rice, Joe Conason points out, who pushed the later repudiated tale that Bush hightailed it to Nebraska on 9/11 because of "intelligence" indicating terrorists had targeted Air Force One.

It was also Rice who insisted that nobody could possibly have imagined a plot so fiendish as to crash jetliners into buildings, although the president had slept aboard a Navy vessel during his visit to Genoa, Italy during the 2001 G-8 summit for precisely that reason. It was Rice who warned that not to attack Iraq would be to risk a "mushroom cloud" over an American city, who pushed the dubious story about Iraq importing aluminum tubes to manufacture nuclear weapons long after experts at the International Atomic Energy Agency had pronounced them technically unsuitable, and who went on "Meet the Press" to deny knowing anything about Ambassador Joseph Wilson's debunking trip to Niger at the CIA's behest weeks after Nicholas Kristof had written about it in the New York Times.

Condoleeza Rice's professional ethics and truthfulness are so questionable and so lax that it would be easy for an aggressive press to pluck her out of the herd and turn her into 120 pounds of well dressed Gainsburger. Of course, that would require a national press that is interested in exposing malfeasance and incompetence in government. That would require a national press that gets a wee bit of bloodlust when the smell of scandal is in the air. That would require a national press that feels it has a duty to keep the public informed about the quality of work performed by our public servants. Sadly, the press seem to find something unseemly in such behavior. Their response to a suggestion that they bring it on, seems follow Nixon, "we could do that, but it would be wrong."

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