Friday, March 26, 2004

Fire and Ice
One fine day over 10 years ago, I got into a shouting match at work with one of my colleagues, a guy who was ostensibly supposed to report to me but never really accepted the fact. It was the ugliest such incident in my working life. Each of us broke out a full barrage of obscenities, and although it didn't come to blows, it certainly could have. After discussing the incident with my boss--the owner of the place all of us worked in--he told me that as long as the guy apologized to me, there would be no repercussions. "With all due respect," I asked the owner, "what does somebody have to do to get fired around here?"

And one might ask the same question about the Bush Admininstration. The only high-ranking people ever fired have been people who told the truth, or who turned out to be right about something the administration preferred to portray otherwise. Among them were Anthony Zinni, the Middle East envoy who said there were more important things over there than Iraq; Larry Lindsay, who said the Iraq war would cost more than the administration was estimating; and Paul O'Neill, the treasury secretary who dared to criticize Bush's tax cuts. This track record probably means that Condoleezza Rice is safe, despite the firestorm that's blown up around her in the last 24 hours. MoveOn.org has launched a phone campaign in hopes of pressuring the White House to make her testify before the 9/11 commission. A centerpiece of their campaign is another of the Center for American Progress' "Claim vs. Fact" analyses, which shows in clinical detail Rice's grave credibility problem. In days of yore, such a record would have observers setting up betting pools on the date and time of her resignation. (Imagine if she were a Democrat.) As it is, all an observer can do now is marvel at the ability of Bush's supporters to keep shoveling manure, all the while pretending it's merely fertilizer for the roses.

In the blizzard of information about Richard Clarke this week, it's been widely reported that he resigned from the administration in April 2003 after despairing at its ideology-driven, reality-ignoring prosecution of the war on terror. But he's not the only veteran public servant who's left the administration, as Harold Meyerson wrote this week. The Bush partisans who attack Clarke as a Democratic tool fail to note that he's a registered Republican. As Meyerson observes, losing officials who are not political antagonists represents a bigger problem for Bush than if the disappearing officials were Democrats.

Recommended reading: Now it can be told, straight from the Hard Drive of Allah--jihadists want four more years of Bush.

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