A Wolf in Wolfie's Clothing

April 28, 2007 by susan

Too glorious a day to post. So, in case you missed this op-ed by Joe Conason, columnist for Slate, in the Minneapolis Star Trib, here's another chance. If spring has contributed to your already short attention span, as it has to mine, here's his conclusion:
"With its endless procession of tawdry scandals and buffoonish antics, the Bush administration often looks and sounds like a sitcom. In retrospect, as America and the world confront terror, disease, poverty and environmental peril, it will be recognized as a tragedy."
Read on, it's worth it.

by Joe Conason
While international organizations such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the United Nations may still seem remote to most Americans, those institutions symbolize the increasing integration of a planet that deeply needs capable, trusted and farsighted guidance. Not so long ago, the United States was known as the "indispensable nation," the one that could be relied upon to lead in times of crisis. That forfeited reputation is not only the world's loss, but ours as well.

Cronyism, neglect, corruption, rigidity and plain stupidity -- perpetrated by figures who had billed themselves (and were billed by the mainstream media) as the geniuses of our time -- have exacted an awesome toll on the inheritance we received from previous generations. Our heritage of world leadership in the last century was built not upon military power alone, but arose from economic, diplomatic and moral foundations that somehow survived despite many earlier mistakes and even crimes.

With the advent of the Bush administration, however, our luck has obviously run out. Neither allies nor adversaries pretend to believe that the ludicrous characters sent forth by the president to represent us are statesmen. Not only does nobody much care what we think, but most people are now inclined to distrust and oppose us on principle.

The latest example of American decline is, of course, the embarrassing little scandal that has besmirched World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz. Always an overrated bureaucrat, he seems to have spent an inordinate amount of time and effort in recent years fashioning literal sweetheart deals for his paramour -- a Tunisian-born Saudi named Shaha Riza -- at the bank, the State Department and the Pentagon.

Even while Wolfowitz was serving as deputy defense secretary, he allegedly pressured a major defense contractor to hire Riza. For a month, she worked in Iraq on "democracy promotion" -- a traditional American objective thoroughly discredited because of Wolfowitz and his fellow neoconservatives.

Considering Wolfowitz's monumental failure at the Pentagon, where he overruled wiser and more experienced staff in preparing for the invasion of Iraq, his own promotion to the World Bank presidency was mystifying. His vaunted brilliance notwithstanding, he may well be the single most incompetent public servant of the past quarter-century, with the only significant competition coming from his former boss, Donald Rumsfeld. Together, they ensured that the occupation of Iraq had too few troops and too little planning, while allowing Republican cronies and crooks to siphon away billions of taxpayer dollars.

It was all going to pay for itself with Iraqi oil revenues, or so Wolfowitz had testified in Congress with his usual confidence. By the time that particular bill came due, he had moved on.

When Wolfowitz showed up at the World Bank, he touted another worthy agenda. Like John Bolton, his fellow ideologue appointed to serve as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, he said that he intended to promote reform and fight corruption. But in both cases, those high-minded purposes were thwarted by personal inadequacies -- while zealous certainty in their own moral purposes blinded them to those shortcomings.

In Wolfowitz's case, that characteristic arrogance enabled him to inveigh against corruption and scourge bank employees while he simultaneously arranged an extraordinary sinecure for Riza. She was seconded to the State Department, with an enormous tax-free salary exceeding the compensation of the secretary of state, where she worked under the supervision of Elizabeth Cheney (whose rank as principal deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs was owed wholly to her father, the vice president).

Under the deal set up by her boyfriend, Riza would automatically receive "outstanding" ratings, with a top position waiting for her on her return to the World Bank as soon as Wolfowitz's term expires. Neoconservatives apparently believe fervently in merit and competition and hate affirmative action, unless their own careers (or the careers of their lovers) are at stake.

All this familial boodling proceeded happily while Vice President Dick Cheney whispered lies about the supposed "nepotism" behind former Ambassador Joe Wilson's unpaid mission to Niger. The White House didn't appreciate Wilson's exposure of the truth behind the administration's "mushroom cloud" fear-mongering about the perils of Saddam Hussein, so they exposed his wife's CIA identity to smear him. Hypocrite is far too inadequate an insult to describe these people.

With its endless procession of tawdry scandals and buffoonish antics, the Bush administration often looks and sounds like a sitcom. In retrospect, as America and the world confront terror, disease, poverty and environmental peril, it will be recognized as a tragedy.

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Anonymous (not verified) | April 28, 2007 - 7:16pm

Scandals and "Scandals"
From Powerline So much for your "scandal" claim. POOF

Eleanor Clift's current column in Newsweek is unremarkable, but I was struck by this line:

With an unpopular war, scandals consuming the White House and a two-party system paralyzed by partisanship, voters are looking for an outsider, somebody who’s not tainted by politics as usual.

That's the liberal line, of course: the White House is consumed by scandals. Certainly Newsweek, along with pretty much every other mainstream news outlet, has done its best to convey this impression. But what, exactly are they talking about? Are there actual scandals, or faux "scandals" that die like a mayfly when the day's news cycle is over?

The truth is that the Bush administration has been extraordinarily scandal-free. Not a single instance of corruption has been unearthed. Only one significant member of the executive branch, Scooter Libby, has been convicted of anything. Whether the jury's verdict was right or wrong, that case was an individual tragedy unrelated to any underlying wrongdoing by Libby or anyone else.

What other "scandals" are consuming the White House? Eight United States Attorneys, who are political appointees serving at the pleasure of the President, were replaced. So what? Was it a scandal when Bill Clinton replaced all 93? So far, not a single fact--I'm drawing here the subtle distinction between "fact" and "speculation" that so often escapes our liberal pundits--has emerged to render the replacement of those Justice Department employees scandalous in any respect.

Last week's "scandal" was Henry Waxman's rather bizarre hearing on the Pat Tillman and Jessica Lynch cases. There was indeed a mini-scandal connected with Jessica Lynch. It was a media scandal. The Washington Post rushed into print the story of Lynch's supposed heroics, based on an anonymous report from a "U.S. official." (Note that the Post did not say the "official" was even in the military.) The Army itself never made any claims whatever about Lynch's "heroism," and reportedly tried to warn the Post off the story. But the Post's position is that any leak must be true, as long as it's anonymous.

In an op-ed in yesterday's New York Times, Michael DeLong, who at the time was the deputy commander of United States Central Command, tells what really happened:

The initial reports from the field regarding Private Lynch stated that she had gone down fighting, had emptied her weapon and that her actions were heroic. Based on these reports, politicians from her home state, West Virginia, wanted the military to award her the Medal of Honor. Their request rose up the ladder until finally it reached me.

But initial combat reports are often wrong. Time must always be taken to thoroughly investigate all claims. In the case of Private Lynch, additional time was needed, since she was suffering from combat shock and loss of memory; facts, therefore, had to be gathered from other sources. The military simply didn’t know at that point whether her actions merited a medal.

This is why, when the request landed on my desk, I told the politicians that we’d need to wait. I made it clear that no one would be awarded anything until all of the evidence was reviewed.

The politicians did not like this. They called repeatedly, through their Congressional liaison, and pressured us to recommend her for the medal, even before all the evidence had been analyzed. I would not relent and we had many heated discussions.

The politicians repeatedly said that a medal would be good for women in the military; I responded that the paramount issue was finding out what had really happened.

So, along with the Washington Post, the villains of the story are politicians from West Virginia. Let's see: every member of West Virginia's Congressional delegation but one is a Democrat, and the Democrats control West Virginia's legislature. So the targets of Waxman's investigation should have been the Washington Post and the Democratic Party, not the military, which never uttered a false word about Lynch.

The Tillman case is only slightly less silly. The commander on the ground made the foolish decision not to tell Tillman's brother Kevin, who was nearby when Pat was killed, that the cause was friendly fire. So the version originally released by those on the ground in Afghanistan was that Pat was killed in an encounter with the enemy. That was stupid. But an investigation was done, and when the matter worked its way up the chain of command, the original decision was reversed, and, only a month or so after Tillman's death, the correct story was released to the public. Far from being a case where senior generals or politicians tried to cover up the circumstances, as was falsely suggested by Kevin Tillman, the exact opposite happened: it was some combination of senior generals and politicians who learned the truth and quickly made it public.

These "scandals" obviously have no legs, but that isn't the point. Waxman has already moved on to a new one, issuing subpoenas to Condoleezza Rice and George Tenet to testify about Saddam's efforts to obtain uranium. And so it goes. Waxman hasn't even gotten to 2005 yet; he can keep this going through the rest of the Bush administration, and his committee is only one of many.

The purpose of these faux "investigations" of faux "scandals" is to further sully the image of President Bush, and to allow liberal reporters and pundits like Eleanor Clift to write that the White House is "consumed by scandals." The fact that there isn't a genuine scandal in the bunch goes unremarked.


Poet (not verified) | April 28, 2007 - 8:07pm

according to Brian Ross (you remember, the one who broke the Mark Foley story!) of ABC News...So much for no scandals among the Bushies...

Deputy Secretary of State Randall L. Tobias submitted his resignation Friday, one day after confirming to ABC News that he had been a customer of a Washington, D.C. escort service whose owner has been charged by federal prosecutors with running a prostitution operation.Tobias, 65, director of U.S. Foreign Assistance and administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), had previously served as the ambassador for the President’s Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief.

A State Department press release late Friday afternoon said only he was leaving for “personal reasons.”...

Tobias’ private cell number was among thousands of numbers listed in the telephone records provided to ABC News by Jeane Palfrey, the woman dubbed the “D.C. Madam,” who is facing the federal charges. In an interview to be broadcast on “20/20″ next Friday, Palfrey says she intends to call Tobias and a number of her other prominent D.C. clients to testify at her trial.

“I’m sure as heck not going to be going to federal prison for one day, let alone, four to eight years, because I’m shy about bringing in the deputy secretary of whatever,” Palfrey told ABC News.

Palfrey maintains she ran a sexual fantasy business that was legal and that if any of the women who were working for her had sex, they did so in violation of her rules and without her knowledge. She says there are a number of other prominent Washington, D.C. men who will be on her witness list. “I’ll bring every last one of them in if necessary,” Palfrey said.

I like Palfrey's spunk and suspect that without that phone list and Ross' story she might already be dead. Ask Monica Lewinsky!