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

Monday, June 21, 2004  

There's an irony to the timing of Clinton Week. He was a polarizing figure whose administration will forever be defined by a lie. It was a lie that didn't fool anyone and one he continued to maintain until it threatened to bring down his presidency. Amid the back and forth around the lie, he slid into legalistic language and tried to turn an obvious like into a legal truth.

So here comes Clinton Week and what's happening? A polarizing president is trying to defend a lie everyone knows is a lie by offering legalistic langauge that, according to strictly bizarro logic, may be legal truths. (The indispensible Liberal Oasis has a round-up--as always--of the Sunday news shows, and this was the central topic.)

The big question is whether or not the current lie will threaten to bring down the current presidency. My guess? It could.

Not, probably, in a legal sense (though I'm offering a new book to anyone who can win the WH Scandal Pool). But this may well be the lie that broke the administration's political back, because for the first time, the press isn't playing along. Here's how the Cincinnati Post couched its skepticism:

In recent days Vice President Dick Cheney has told reporters there were probably things about Iraq's connection to al-Qaida that commission members did not know.

This took a fair amount a cheek, considering how hard the White House has resisted the commission's requests for information. But commission members were typically restrained in their response.

"We would certainly welcome any information bearing on the issue of assistance or collaboration with al-Qaida by any government including Iraq," commission member Richard Ben-Veniste was quoted as saying, echoing remarks made by commission chairman Thomas Kean and vice chairman Lee Hamilton to the New York Times. A more direct, albeit less polite reponse, would have been, "Put up or shut up."

The administration, formerly quite astute about the political ramifications of its positions, doesn't realize that it has already lost this one. The position the WH has taken is that it wasn't lying when it said there were connections between al Qaida and Iraq. But the press knows very well this isn't the issue. The real lie was that the WH implied a link between Saddam Hussein and 9/11--and that whopper cannot be undone. When Clinton argued he did not have sex with "that woman," we knew he was lying. When he tried to justify the lie with his etymological "is" argument, we knew he was covering for the lie.

The current White House is also lying, and most Americans (particularly the swing-voting and independent ones) know this. Now it's resorting to an argument about why the lie may not, strictly speaking, be a lie. The longer they keep making the argument, the worse it will get. As the nation pauses to debate the Clinton legacy, the Bushies could wise up and see how that one turned out. Don't hold your breath.

posted by Jeff | 7:35 AM |
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