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Denying, Spying, & Buying

Friday, Jan. 27, 2006 12:16 AM

In a press conference today, President Bush claimed the photos of him with lobbyist Jack Abramoff are irrelevant.

Irrelevant to what, precisely? Bush's denial packs all the weight of Peter spurning Christ. Hey, we have a photo of you and Jack Abramoff.

"I don't know him."

But Abramoff definitely visited the White House on several occasions.

"I don't know him. Having my picture taken with someone doesn't mean that, you know, I'm a friend with them or know them very well."

And what about the $6000 that Jack donated directly to the Bush-Cheney Campaign?

"I don't know him. Those pictures ... (are) not relevant to the investigation."

Let's be honest, Mr. Bush. Abramoff was a donor at the 'Pioneer' level, pumping upwards of $100,000 into your campaign, and he's just some anonymous clown you took a photo with? I might believe that you don't know much about him, but claiming to not know him at all only reinforces the perception that you live in a bubble.

At the same time, the candor about the ongoing investigation into Abramoff's dealings rings equally false. "If they (federal prosecutors) believe something was done inappropriately in the White House, they'll come and look, and they're welcome to do so."

Except, as is proven on a regular basis, when people do ask those questions, the Bush Administration stonewalls behind claims of confidential privilege. Testimony before the 9/11 Commission had to be wrung out of you, and then only with Dick Cheney holding your hand. And the proceedings were not under oath. Now, reports about the White House's knowledge of the impact of Hurricane Katrina have come forth, and, guess what - everyone's hiding behind the private counsel smokescreen.

"If people give me advice and they're forced to disclose that advice, it means the next time an issue comes up I might not be able to get unvarnished advice from my advisers," Bush said. "And that's just the way it works."

In other words, if his advisors worry too much about what the press or public thinks, they won't say anything? How about having the intestinal fortitude and intellectual honesty to stand by your beliefs, or by your interpretation of the facts? How about taking responsibility for what one says?

And how about a president who takes responsibility for his actions, regardless of the advice he receives?

Mr. Bush again defended the warrantless wiretap program. "And so, as I stand here right now, I can tell the American people the program's legal, it's designed to protect civil liberties, and it's necessary."

Warrantless = Protecting Civil Liberties

But Mr. Bush doesn't want a law drafted, because it would show the enemy what we're doing.

No Law = Legal

Because, of course, that which is not explicitly forbidden must be legal. And if it's forbidden, well, heck, just tack on a signing statement.

Bush also said he doesn't view the dispute as a contest with the legislative branch.

It's not a contest, Mr. Bush. It's the law.

Perhaps we should consider the value of an open (at least at the level of public policy) program designed to restrict and disrupt terrorist communications. Make it difficult enough so that the terrorists can't rely on phones. We use phones because they're convenient; forcing terrorists to rely on more laborious and less immediate forms of communication, while not as easily cherry-picked, has the benefit of making their life difficult.

Couple that with effective methods of response that can cope with terrorist activities with little or no advance warning, and we have a far more robust game plan. It's a defense-in-depth that allows us to cover the running play as well as a long-bomb pass. Football teams don't obsess over deciphering the other team's audibles; they have a flexible defense and special teams to cope with an evolving situation.

Gathering intelligence begins with observation. Coaches watch films of opponent's previous games; they know who their star players are, what they are likely to do in a given situation, and how they respond to offensive threats as well as the vagaries of how the ball flies through the air. Baseball teams rely on the pitcher and catcher as a primary defense, but the infield and outfield are there to cover those moments when a batter puts wood on the ball.

As for Hamas achieving a majority victory in the Palestinian elections, Mr. Bush moves from clueless to oblivious.

We're embroiled in a war to prevent terrorism from gaining a foothold in the Middle East and, suddenly, Hamas' win is a, "triumph of democracy." (Not that Yasser Arafat was free of ties to terrorist organizations, but still.)

"There was a peaceful process as people went to the polls, and that's positive. But what's also positive is that it's a wake up call to the leadership. Obviously, people were not happy with the status quo."

But perhaps what the people weren't happy with was the steady flow of American dollars promoting that status quo.

So the next time President Bush trots out the slogans and happy talk about freedom and democracy, we need to remember the situation in the Middle East has never been that simple. Its roots go back to the day Abraham kicked Hagar out of his tent to take up with Sarah; opposing sects have fought each other since Mohammed died in the 5th Century. They're not suddenly going to play nice with each other because someone imposed a vote on them.

We need to understand that buying democracy is like buying a term paper: you're not actually doing the work, and the results are neither honest nor supportive of long-term growth.

And that in a true democracy, terrorists vote, too.

The Ministry has received 3 comment(s) on this topic.

PM - 2006-01-28 16:40:11
I realize this is NOT the point of your essay, and I'm hardly a Biblical scholar myself, but I thought it was Peter who denied Christ three times? Just thought you might want to look into that; if it was Peter, I can see the religious folk using that as an excuse not to listen. Ya know?

The Minister - 2006-01-28 18:13:58
@PM: Guilty as charged of robbing Peter to reference Paul. Corrected.

Brin - 2006-01-27 04:54:13
"It depends on what your definition of 'know' is."