We have reached the point, apparently inevitable in second-term Republican presidencies, where the lies begin to unravel and the scum rises to the top. For the third time in 33 years we must ask the question, What did the president know and when did he know it?
(With Clinton, the question was slightly different: ‘Who does this guy think he’s fooling, and who gives a flying $#@$ about blowjobs?’ But I digress.)
This is a particularly difficult question in the GWB era, where it’s unclear whether the president knows anything at all. This is a man who boasts of never reading newspapers or watching television, save for ESPN. Thanks to careful screening at town hall meetings and “public” events he has never had to encounter anyone who disagrees with him. He is surrounded by lackeys afraid to tell him he has to sacrifice two days of his five-week vacation because Hurricane Katrina is destroying one of the world’s great cities. He is the Boy in the Bubble.
And yet it’s likely he knows something--for example, the score of Texas Ranger games. He knows how My Pet Goat ends, because that’s what he was reading while the towers were falling. He probably knows he f**ked up bigtime over Katrina, though it’s possible he still believes “Brownie” did “a heck of a job.”
After that, things get kinda sketchy.
For example, is Bush aware he’s now the most unpopular president since Nixon? Even his pals at Fox News can’t spin that one into gold.
Does he know that more than 100,000 war protestors camped on his doorstep two days ago? Probably not, because he wasn’t there to see it.
Has he ever heard of the Downing Street Memos? Is he aware that even Tony Blair didn’t believe Saddam had weapons, but went along with the lie because he wanted to cozy up to the Yanks?
Does he know that the Mission has yet to be Accomplished? Or that the Thanksgiving turkey he was photographed serving US soldiers was a fake, not unlike so many of his appointees?
Does he realize that the investigation into the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame is really about the faking of WMD evidence, and that this will ultimately cause his house of cards to tumble?
I’m guessing the answer to most of these questions is no. (Well, maybe not the one about the turkey.) Ignorance this broad and deep cannot be an accident. You do a much better job of selling something if you believe in your heart it is true.
The Reaganauts introduced “plausible deniability,” creating a chain of command so layered and serpentine it would be impossible to prove the president knew anything about Iran-Contra.
The Bushmasters have extended this concept into “plausible gullibility,” creating a president so ill informed that every bit of news comes as a surprise.
The intelligence was flawed. No one knew the source for information about Iraq’s alleged chemical weapons program was an infamous liar employed by Ahmed Chalabi. No one knew the Niger yellowcake documents were forgeries, even though they were ‘signed’ by an official who’d been out of office for 10 years. No one knew that terrorists would fly planes into buildings, even though US intelligence had warned of such a plan two years before 9/11.
No one knew the storm would be this bad. No one knew the levees would break.
“No one,” of course, is Bush.
So when Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld created the Office of Special Plans -- fabricating evidence, twisting intelligence, browbeating the CIA into taking the blame when it all came crashing down – did they do it to fool a credulous public, or the Chief Executive himself? Was it all done just so George would say yes?
No one knows. And, so far, he isn't talking.