Saturday, May 14, 2005

Running out of patience...

Whatever you do, make sure you check out this link from E&P: It's a transcript of Scott McClellan blowing smoke up the White House press corps' collective ass on May 12, the day after the Cessna incident.

Several things jump out at you:

1. McClellan's talking-points act is wearing thin (can you imagine having to deal with such an insufferable jerk day in, day out?); 2. The WH press corps, which has rolled over repeatedly for this administration, reacted with some gumption when the story involved a threat that frightened and inconvenienced them.

The elephant in this room isn't difficult to spot, but it's the simple truth that no one dares speak: Bush isn't in charge. He never was. He wasn't in charge on Sept. 11 and he wasn't in charge on this day, either.

Had Bush been in the White House instead of riding his bike, then McClellan would have said that the president was notified and directed the response ... it might not have been true, but more significantly, it wouldn't have looked so patently, bluntly, obviously, undeniably false.

Instead, Bush was safely out of town, and his Secret Service detail let him continue his bike ride because... well, clearly, the thought of telling the President about a possible attack on Washington and the subsequent evacuation of more than 30,000 people never occurred to anybody.

As McClellan keeps saying, protocols were activated. Procedures were followed. All is well and everything went as planned. Oh really? Then clearly, Scott, those protocols don't include notifying the president. Remember Sept. 11? Cheney ran the show. Bush was told it wasn't safe for him to return to Washington and assume command, and so the commander-in-chief went for little airplane ride.

So what does it say if the President of the United States can't be trusted to lead the response when the nation is under threat of attack?

In February of 2001 I had a good-natured argument about Bush with novelist (now turned conservative online columnist) Orson Scott Card. Card said Bush was a good man. I said that this might well be true, but that to me the bigger issue was who had put him in office. Card thought that was typical liberal media bias.

My case: The lesson the GOP learned from its 1996 Dole debacle was that it should no longer leave its future vulnerable to extraneous, random indignities such as candidates and voters. Dole got the '96 nomination because people felt he had earned it, that it was his turn. In 1997, such notions were determined to be distinctly Old School.

Afterward, key leaders in the GOP decided that for the 2000 election, their elite was going to select one candidate, get everyone on board long before the primaries, and then fend off all challengers. This alliance, while not illegal, sought to soak up not only the available money, but also the majority of the party's political talent. This is why the McCain candidacy was typically described as an "insurgency."

Of course, when a few wealthy donors, insiders and operatives decide to short-circuit the democratic system, they don't so with the gee-whiz notion of selecting a president who is going to take office and then tell them what to do. When these people interview you as the possible receipient of their support, they're not checking to see if you've got good ideas. They could give a damn. All they want to know is whether you're going to stay on the plantation once you get elected.

My argument to Card was that one would be naive to look at Bush as an independent leader considering 1. His lack of independent achievements and qualifications; and 2. the weight and power of the group that selected him as its candidate.

Critiquing my own theory today, I would say that Bush has set the tone for much of US policy in the post-Sept. 11 world, and that he has been a stronger leader (though, I think, in a negative way) than what I considered possible in early 2001.

But I also contend that, for all his bluster, Bush has never left the plantation. Compassionate conservative? Maybe he was in Texas, but he hasn't been in Washington. Bush is a company man, and the company in this case is called the Project for the New American Century.

Besides, whatever Bush's role as a "big-picture man," the reality of character and power is always revealled in crisis. On May 11, 2005, as on Sept. 11, 2001, Bush was a bystander. Actually, he wasn't even that. A bystander is at least observing.

I think the press is finally losing its last scraps of patience with the President and his supporters. One can only be patronized, placated, manipulated, teased and insulted for so long before the consequences of stepping out of line are no longer worse than continuing to accept the status quo. Things will really get interesting once we stop focusing on Dubya's affable Everyman personna and start taking a closer look at the people around him (Bolton... Hager... Horsley... DeLay... Gannon (and by the way, check out the Talon News site these days)... Eberle... Rumsfeld... Sciafe... Robertson... Cheney... oh, and ExxonMobil...

Liberal media bias? Yeah, whatever, Mr. McClellan. That's like complaining about a leaky faucet when the house is burning down.