The Declassifier-in-Chief

Putting the Leak to Rest

It’s no secret that people – from the Iraqis themselves to Pakistan and a healthy majority of US citizens – think the US shouldn’t be in Iraq. Their reasons are a diverse as the causes and effects of this putrid pox on the nation.

The war kills far too many Americans. It kills even more Iraqis. It’s plunging Iraq into a civil war that’s taking it back to the stone age. It antagonizes Iraq’s neighbors. It loots our national treasure and drives up prices on the strength of war fears and threats to the oil supply. But this week’s reason du jour was the accusation that the war makes the US less safe from terror – an explicit slap at the President’s long, self-aggrandizing idea that we’re somehow safer as a result of the War on Terror/Iraq/Afghanistan/Insert Name of Combatant Here. Things have gotten so bad that even the Cabal du Bush no longer clings to the idea that things are going “rite well” and “vicktry’s rite ’round tha corner”.

And the proof is in the leak of a classified National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that directly contradicted His Ineptness. It posits that – unlike George’s non-intuitive assumption – killing people actually pisses them off. In fact, pisses them off so bad they’re willing to fight with you, thereby making you less safe.

Hmm, imagine that. Who woulda’ thunk it George, who woulda thunk it?

Of course, George got as snarling and red-faced as a Clinton on Fox when the NIE mud soiled his wingtips. He had the audacity to claim that the release may have been politically motivated, coming as it does, just weeks before Republicans may get a spanking like none since the Grinch the Prince and his Contract on America ousted the Dems.

Politically motivated? No shit Sherlock. Did Karl tell you that or did you figure it out all by your lonesome?

So to “put politics aside”, BaBushka decided to declassify three of the document’s 34 pages. The expected result was that miraculously, the three pages would be the ones with the exculpatory information needed to rebut his critics. But clever bastard that he is, the pages actually buttressed the claim that we’re worse off as a result of the war (see The Master of Lowered Expectations). It’s nice to see that some things, principally ineptitude, are a constant in this administration.

But with all the political fussing, it seems to me that everyone has lost sight of a few important details.

It may have been illegal to have leaked the classified material. The in-fighting has gotten so bad that people are divulging national secrets and risking jail time so they can have their arguments heard. Wouldn’t this suggest we’re having just a spot of trouble?

Isn’t it equally bad that the Declassfier-in-Chief was willing – for only the third time in the history of National Intelligence Estimates – to declassify even more secrets to salvage his skunk-bitten political ass. I mean for Chrissakes, he was willing to keep the big Dick’s Energy Task force notes a secret even though they weren’t even classified. It seems to me this is the bigger deal.

Even his declassification was slipshod. He selectively declassified material – a tactic that has purpled his nurple before – leaving questions about the validity of what he provided and the worse damage that may have lurked in what didn’t come out.

I’ll go along with the idea that George was the target of a political hit here, but I’ll show him no sympathy. If he hadn’t bollixed things up this badly, this leak probably would never have happened. If he actually listened to people, perhaps the leaker might have been able to find a more acceptable way to be heard. If he hadn’t pulled so many political shenanigans on others, perhaps they might have played a little fairer with him or at least given him the benefit of the doubt.

This whole case is a series of what ifs that we’ll probably never have answered. The only thing the American public can postulate with any accuracy is the “what if George wasn’t the President?” question. And when we ask it, we can only answer it like this:

“Unfortunately, he is President, and for a long time to come too. But one day he’ll pass like a kidney stone and it will truly be morning in America once again.”

The Master of Lowered Expectations

Shrubie was once alleged to have said, “I’m the master of lowered expectations.” I know I didn’t expect much from him when limped into office with a contested and razor-thin margin. My expectations were already so low you couldn’t have slipped a sheet of paper between the floor and the limbo pole. I fully expected him to spend the next four years staring at the pole like a not-too-bright basset hound, trying to decide whether to jump over it or walk around it. In the end, he pissed on the pole and dug a hole under it rather than take either of the more obvious paths. The bitch is, he was rewarded for this idiotic behavior with a second term.

Administrations often lower expectations in advance of important events. For example, in advance of a summit where it’s abundantly clear that nothing of substance will happen. It’s a way to squeak though unpleasant events without doing undue political harm to yourself. As he has throughout his life, the Presidenterator decided to take a shortcut and just let his performance set expectations in lieu of the messy staff work required to voluntarily lower them in a controlled, rational way.

As each new crisis presented itself, he simply did a poorer job than he had on the last. The rousing, and surprisingly on-target response to 9/11 begat Afghanistan. Before Afghanistan was firmly under control, he lowered expectations by charging into Iraq with guns blazing and no map to win the peace. And just when you thought he’d bottomed out, Katrina caught him on the toilet in Crawford with his pants around his knees and the toilet paper at the other end of the house.

I can remember sitting dumbstruck in front of the television as people died live on CNN and thinking, “this can’t possibly get any worse”.

Clearly, I was wrong.

Today we find ourselves virtually friendless in the international community, pissing away billions on a war in which he can’t even define the criteria for victory. We’re pinned down, lacking the ability to move forward or the avenue to fall back. Meanwhile, he blames everyone but himself, chips away at Constitutional freedoms, and acts so very surprised at why people seem so unwilling to believe him. He appears to have lowered expectations so much that even he no longer has any of himself. He just shows up for the occasional speech, says everything is going swimmingly, and retires for a PB and J with a glass of milk for lunch.

Look at his response to events unfolding over the past few days.

When the National Intelligence Estimate leaked word that people aren’t nearly as safe as he’s incessantly chanted over the past five years, he response was, “Aw, that don’t matter none. Ya dint see none of tha rest of it. That secret part said ever-thing’s just fine.”

When more Generals line up to tell him yet again that the bumbling of Iraq is Rummy’s fault, his response was, “Ah always gived them soldier fellas ‘zactly whut they asked fer.” But George, if you gave them what they asked, why do they keep saying you didn’t. If you gave them all they asked, why are things going so poorly? Are you saying that your Generals are incompetent ninnies?

George never seems bothered in the least that he can profess something while all evidence to the contrary is piled in front of him. New Orleans sits like a festering boil on the ass of Louisiana and his talk is about the great things that are happening in Carbuncle City. His much vaunted Iraqi government moves with all the grace and efficiency of an Abrham’s tank trying to swim the Tigris at floodstage. His response, “Aw, them things’ll float.” Iran is strutting around him like a boxer who’s laid his opponent low with a sucker punch. His reaction is to reach for a sabre to rattle only to discover al Maliki is using it for a skewer at the Eye-Raq Bar-B-Q, Hoedown, and Lootfest.

I keep thinking my expectations cannot possibly get any lower and every time, George manages to ratchet them down yet another notch. My expectations have become so low that I figure I’m ahead of the game if we haven’t all been vaporized in a nookular cloud. But, I suppose such a stunning performance is the mark of a master I find myself having to agree with him…

He is “the master of lowered expectations”.

Chris, You Ignorant Slut

There’s plenty of buzz about Sunday’s Chris Wallace/Bill Clinton interview on Fox News. No one can dispute that it made for interesting television and pumped up Fox’s ratings, but beyond that, it’s debatable whether it accomplished much else.

For liberals, it was a much deserved smackdown by a man who’s been blamed for just about anything bad that’s happened in the last 15 years and who was hounded unmercifully during his stint on Pennsylvania Ave (J’ACCUSE! BLOWJOBS!). For Conservatives, it was a tirade aimed at a non-existent right-wing conspiracy by a man who has never told a truth in his life (J’ACCUSE! BLOWJOBS!…er, RULE OF LAW! RULE OF LAW!).

Some suggest that Bill – one of the savviest politicians on the planet – was well-prepared for the questions and said exactly what he meant in exactly the tone he chose. Others argue that may be true, but there was some real steam under the collar too. I personally believe a little of both. I think Bill expected the question and practiced his answers – he’s too smart not to have done so – but I think there was real anger there too – and, it showed.

The question Wallace asked was perfectly valid, albeit phrased in an accusatory fashion, “…why didn’t you do more, connect the dots and put him (bin Laden) out of business?” A less provocative version might have been, “Do you think you did enough to put bin Laden out of business?” But, that’s a quibble. Presidents, ex or otherwise, aren’t allowed the luxury of going ballistic when confronted with an accusatory tone or an unflattering implication. After all, George has been testy lately and it’s made him look less Presidential – as if the cowboy boots, brush cutting, and bounty hunter language hadn’t already – even if we spot him to a low “Presidentialness” bar.

While many of Clinton’s points were true, his delivery – uncomfortably close to his finger-wagging, “I did not have sex with that woman…Miss Lewinsky” speech – came across as more unbridled anger than a cool summation befitting an elder statesman. If he was preaching to those not already in the choir, his delivery made it all too easy to say, “He’s the same sniveling, depraved bastard he always was.” If he was preaching to the choir, it probably wasn’t necessary. They’ve had the hymnal open and started singing long ago. The litmus test for this comparison is easy, the White House response looked reasonable and sensible by comparison – never a good sign.

Was his defense justified?

For me, that’s an unqualified yes. Most people in a position to know the details of what happened, seem to back him up. They say he instituted several campaigns to off Osama bin Cuckoo. They also say he showed an impressive inquisitiveness and interest about the situation that stands in stark contrast to George’s unsurprising, “I ‘spose I oughta mosey on over and see if sumpin’s up with this here bin Laden boy” approach the first six months he was on the job.

The 9/11 Commission said Bill should shoulder some of the blame and he did. During the interview he admitted that he’d been unable to tighten the noose on Osama. While I give him points for voluntarily admitting a failure – something George seems pathologically unable to do – he did, nevertheless, fail and the Commission was correct to apportion some blame to him. There’s plenty of blame to spread around in a cock up as big as 9/11 and he owned up to his share while making a point that he at least had tried. I can’t fault him for that.

So he presented his case and acquitted himself rather well on the facts. I’m sure he gained plenty of satisfaction from taking a swipe back at those who blame him and I’m sure finally saying something after five years was cathartic.

But did the fireworks change the political calculus? Not so much.

The polls won’t rise or fall on the basis of the exchange. Most people have already taken a stand on Bill’s guilt or innocence and George’s incompetence or leadership. They will continue to respond accordingly.

It seems the only winner here may be Fox News. They reaped some nice ratings, can tout Chris Wallace as a tough interviewer who asks difficult questions, and garnered plenty of free publicity from all the other news outlets that jumped on the exchange like cats on a june bug.

In light of that, maybe it’s time for Fox News to jettison the “Fair and Balanced” oxymoron and go with a new one, “Our Programmers are Smarter Than You Think“.