Notes on the Atrocities
Like a 100-watt radio station, broadcasting to the dozens...

Monday, April 12, 2004  

We are entering the fourth week following Richard Clarke's appearance on 60 Minutes. It appears that once again, thanks to gross political mismanagement, it will be another week of Presidential spin of a kind that has preveresly kept the the story at the top of the news cycles and kept the President on the defensive.

The pattern is now familiar: someone makes an accusation of a minor administration failing. Except for Clarke's accusations that Bush was more focused on Saddam than Osama following 9/11, each of those accusations has been not only forgiveable, they've been politically inert. But rather than admit to the politically inert, forgiveable failing and moving on, the administration members make a number of claims about the accusation to acquit themselves. These turn out to be false, turning the claims politically volatile, and the cycle repeats.

This week's claim is that the August 6, 2001 Presidential Briefing did not contain an exhortation to action (a "threat warning"), but rather some moldy historical information already well known by the White House. All well and good until it emerged that the briefing document in question was titled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S." Nice. Now the President has to slide into legalistic language to try to argue that the argument was "historical" rather than "actionable."

Never mind that even a slow-witted 9th-grader understands that actionable intelligence isn't going to be submitted in a briefing like this. Obviously, these briefings are designed to give an overview of a situation, to allow for coordination, planning, and focus. If something actionable came along--likesay the FBI moving in to arrest suspicious flight-school students--that action would be included in the briefing as something already under way. It would become part of the overview, not a call for the President to initiate the arrest.

And our slow-witted 9th grader also senses something else about all this--if the President feels it's necessary to lie about such small, inert details, mustn't it surely mean that there is some massive, nuclear fact in the Presidential closet? Why all the fuss?

In any case, the administration will remain on the defensive for another week at least. If the President isn't hiding something, I'm officially revoking my membership to the "Karl Rove is freaky good" club. I can't imagine a President bumbling more spectactularly than this one is. Forget Bush I, it's Carteresque...

posted by Jeff | 9:29 AM |
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