June 13, 2005

Bush = Hitler Nixon

Frank Rich takes us on an interesting journey through the land of conspiracy theory. Beginning with a lament over the media's slouched return to the "third-rate burglary" meme that Nixon wanted Watergate to be portrayed as, Frank goes on to compare Nixon White House era secrecy with Bush White House secrecy, eventually arguing that Bush is up to even more no-good than Nixon ever was.

After setting the scene where Bush & Co. are a cabal of media-intimidating, power-hungry information-control freaks, Frank begins offering the "evidence" and begins with this:

The July 2002 "Downing Street memo," the minutes of a meeting in which Tony Blair and his advisers learned of a White House effort to fix "the intelligence and facts" to justify the war in Iraq, was published by The London Sunday Times on May 1. Yet in the 19 daily Scott McClellan briefings that followed, the memo was the subject of only 2 out of the approximately 940 questions asked by the White House press corps, according to Eric Boehlert of Salon.

This is the kind of lapdog news media the Nixon White House cherished.

Firstly, it's my understanding that Prime Minister Blair was not present at the meeting. Secondly, the reason the "Downing Street memo" was never a huge story with the MSM is because even the MSM realize that there's no there there. (For more on this, Frank, check out Jim Robbins and then Kevin Alyward. And a tip o'the tam to Michelle Malkin for them links!)

The operative paragraph from Robbins' article is this:
The memo raises three issues dear to the hearts of President Bush's critics — the timing of the decision to go to war with Saddam, the WMD rationale, and the use (read: abuse) of intelligence to create the casus belli. One paragraph in the memo conveniently contains all three:
C [Richard Dearlove, Head of MI-6] reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.

The memo's text is a scribbling from the hand of foreign policy aide Matthew Rycroft. He was writing of his impressions of someone eles's impressions of someone else's impressions of the Bush policy from someone who'd never actually spoken with the President. Rycroft's musings are no more substantive or reliable as a window into the administrations thinking than the musings of Dan Rather or Ralph Nadir. They are impressions and have all the same clutter of subjectiveness as that which underlies my selective spelling of certain proper names.

[UPDATE] Sir George at the Rottweiler has a great smackdown of the "Downing Street Memo" and "Memo II" and, in the excellent comments thread, clarifies a major point that hadn't even occurred to me.

The Sunday Times, which ran the piece, didn't even highlight the phrase, and the people at the Sunday Times do know how Englishmen speak English. In their proper speech "fix" means to "set in order", "to arrange", "to place securely", "to make ready", "to determine with accuracy".

The left is going with a single definition of fix, "To influence the outcome or actions of by improper or unlawful means - to fix a jury."

If this was the meaning used, then why no questions? Indeed, if this was the meaning they accepted then it would also mean that they didn't think Iraq possessed WMD, which is refuted by the language in the second memo, where they clearly indicate Iraq's WMD might be used against a military invasion.


After still more blather about how the spirit of Chuck Colson lives on in the Bush White House, Frank imploys somewhat of a smear:

Such is the equivalently supine state of much of the news media today that Mr. Colson was repeatedly trotted out, without irony, to pass moral judgment on Mr. Felt - and not just on Fox News, the cable channel that is actually run by the former Nixon media maven, Roger Ailes.

Frank impunes Roger Ailes as a "former Nixon media maven", thereby implying that Ailes=Colson. This isn't honest opinion journalism, it's a neo-McCarthyism and Frank Rich knows it. You just can't construct an argument like this without knowing that you're tortured spin is intended to dizzy the reader into submission. Frank, come back to us, man.

But, no-o-o-o-o-o...

In the most recent example, all the president's men slimed and intimidated Newsweek by accusing it of being an accessory to 17 deaths for its errant Koran story; led by Scott McClellan, they said it was unthinkable that any American guard could be disrespectful of Islam's holy book

I don't think anyone called it "unthinkable", but if that's the word you need for your set-up...
These neo-Colsons easily drowned out Gen. Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Afghanistan's president, Hamid Karzai, both of whom said that the riots that led to the 17 deaths were unrelated to Newsweek.

As I wrote here, General Myers was referring to an assessment by General Eikenberry. Myers was not offering it as his own assessment. The shouting of, and placards carried by, the protesters belie Eikenberry's and Karzai's assessment.

McClellan critiqued Newsweek's crappy journalism which led to riots in which 17 (or so) people frickin' died. This is not intimidation of a free press that's doing the good work. It's a scolding of the free press that's doing shoddy-ass work because it wants nothing more than to kill the President. Do you understand the difference, Frank? Well, do ya?! Answer me!
(Oh, right...)

But, now, we have this atrocious twist of fate:

Then came the pièce de résistance of Nixon mimicry: a Pentagon report certifying desecrations of the Koran by American guards was released two weeks after the Newsweek imbroglio, at 7:15 p.m. on a Friday, to assure it would miss the evening newscasts and be buried in the Memorial Day weekend's little-read papers.

Frank is, of course refering to this, which includes the important details of this "abuse":

Of the 13 alleged incidents, five were substantiated, he said. Four were by guards and one was by an interrogator. Hood said the five cases "could be broadly defined as mishandling" of the holy book, but he refused to discuss details.

In three of the five cases, the mishandling appears to have been deliberate. In the other two, it apparently was accidental.

"But it appears here some American military officers may have touched the Quran when they are not supposed to because non-believers are not supposed to touch the Quran. Early on there were not clear procedures."

So, like, the "abuse" was not that Americans had "mishandled" the Qu'ran, but that they'd dared to actually handle it at all. This is abuse? Frank Rich wants you to think it is. Why? Because he wants to destroy a "religious" man, President Bush, even if he has to defend religious fanatic Islamists' decrees that the Holy Qu'ran never be so much as touched by Frank himself in order to do so.

Do you disagree, Frank? Do you have an alternate explanation for you're silly sophistry?
But it gets better...

Though Nixon aspired to punish public broadcasting by cutting its funding, he never imagined that his apparatchiks [<--a Russian word refering to those who did the Soviet-era Kremlin's bidding.--TS] could seize the top executive positions at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Nor did he come up with the brilliant ideas of putting journalists covertly on the administration payroll

A reference to Armstrong Williams who said he took the money, but only because he believed in the No Child Left Program in the first place...
and of hiring an outside P.R. firm (Ketchum) to codify an enemies list by ranking news organizations and individual reporters on the basis of how favorably they cover a specific administration policy (No Child Left Behind).

Kethum created some ads and took a poll on their effectiveness. Pretty run of the mill stuff is y'ask me...
President Bush has even succeeded in emasculating the post-Watergate reform that was supposed to help curb Nixonian secrecy, the Presidential Records Act of 1978.

A Washington Post article on that can be found here What Bush wants to do is to protect sensitive information for an indefinate amout of time, but it's definately not without checks and balances.

Here's the complaint in a nut shell (from the above link):

A former president would then review them and tell the archivist whether they should be withheld or made public. The incumbent president or a designee would then look at them to see if he or she agrees with the ex-president's decision. Unless both agree they should be made public, the records will remain secret unless "a final court order" should require disclosure.

"Absent compelling circumstances," the incumbent president will concur in the former president's privilege decision, the draft order states. But if the incumbent president does not agree on a former president's decision to grant access, "the incumbent president may independently order the archivist to withhold privileged records."

The order would work "like a one-way ratchet," said Scott Nelson, an attorney for the Public Citizen Litigation Group. "If the former president says the records are privileged, they will remain secret even if the sitting president disagrees. If the sitting president says they should be privileged, they remain secret even if the former president disagrees."

Jimmy Carter can decide if something in his presidential record archives oughta be allowed to be made public. All this new rule does is allow the sitting president to evaluate the former president's judgement. There are security concerns that the sitting president is focused on that a former president is not aware of. The sitting president has a better understanding, right now, of what's still sensitive information and what's not so sensitive information, than a former president does. (Ouch, bad grammer, sorry!) But still, I'd never accept the rule to be indefinate. Maybe an additional ten years or so...

Anywho, Frank yammered on longer than I wished he had...

The journalists who do note the resonances of now with then rarely get to connect those dots on the news media's center stage of television. You are more likely to hear instead of how Watergate inspired too much "gotcha" journalism. That's a rather absurd premise given that no "gotcha" journalist got the goods on the biggest story of our time: the false intimations of incipient mushroom clouds peddled by American officials to sell a war that now threatens to match the unpopularity and marathon length of Vietnam.

J'ever get the feeling that some people just pray for another Vietnam? J'ever get the feeling that some people seek to minimize the perceived threat right down to the point that "there is nothing to worry about, please return to your desks"? J'ever wonder if partisan politics might acually kill several million people?

Yeah? Then it's interesting that Frank invoked the word "apparatchiks". He could have said "henchmen" or "loyalists ", but he didn't. No, Bush's opperatives are, of course, mindlless automotons acting out of blindlest instinct or a threat of death. There are no people in Chimpworld, only Bushie-zombies!

Frank Rich concludes...

Only once during the Deep Throat rollout did I see a palpable, if perhaps unconscious, effort to link the White House of 1972 with that of 2005. It occurred at the start, when ABC News, with the first comprehensive report on Vanity Fair's scoop, interrupted President Bush's post-Memorial Day Rose Garden news conference to break the story.

Suddenly the image of the current president blathering on about how hunky-dory everything is in Iraq was usurped by repeated showings of the scene in which the newly resigned Nixon walked across the adjacent White House lawn to the helicopter that would carry him into exile.

But in the days that followed, Nixon and his history and the long shadows they cast largely vanished from the TV screen. In their place were constant nostalgic replays of young Redford and flinty Holbrook. Follow the bait-and-switch.

Wow. I'll leave you, dear reader, to make of that what you will. It's late and I'm tired.

In the meantime, may I offer some Viking Kittens?

Posted by Tuning Spork at June 13, 2005 07:27 AM

Whoa! Good one! I liked Rich when he was the drama critic and began to loath him when he stopped reviewing plays and put his political views on the weekend arts section.

Posted by: RP at June 13, 2005 10:11 AM
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