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Political Animal

Excuses, Excuses

By Brian Morton | Posted 7/20/2005

Isn’t this getting old by now? We should all be feeling like the teacher who hears “the dog ate my homework” for the 423rd time.

So Joe Wilson, former ambassador to Iraq, the guy who dared Saddam to hang him in 1991 by conducting a press briefing wearing a noose instead of a tie, is now a liar. Karl Rove didn’t do anything wrong, and even if he did, according to pompadour-topped Fox News idiot John Gibson, he should be “given a medal” for it.

Excuses! They’re all we hear these days—it’s the only way The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight can maintain a supposed aura of infallibility that for all intents and purposes even the Vatican has given up on. Remember Abu Ghraib? They were just blowing off steam! Torture? No—we call those “stress positions.” And besides, we exonerated all those officers of any wrongdoing (except for Brig. Gen. Janice Karpinski, who was too close to the stink, and anyway, a woman).

The economy tanking? That was that so-called “trifecta”—a recession, a national emergency, and a war. Halliburton getting all those no-bid contracts? Nobody else has the experience to serve food or pump gas in a war zone.

Oh, and of course: Sept. 11? The favorite catch-all excuse: It was Bill Clinton’s fault.

It’s gotten to the point that nearly anyone in America can put a sign on their desk that says the buck stops here except the president of the United States. Despite a complete lack of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, his secretary of defense is still on the job and his former CIA director was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom. No generals have been fired, even though the aftermath of the war was botched beyond belief. Even that mission accomplished banner that hung behind the president on that aircraft carrier? That wasn’t some White House advance person, oh no. That was the Navy’s fault.

A recent AP poll, taken from July 11-13, shows the president with only 42 percent of the country approving of the way he’s doing his job, a new low even for the man who is making the “soft bigotry of low expectations” a way of life.

The reason why it’s important to remind you of these “greatest hits” excuses is that last week we saw the Republican National Committee pull out all the stops to defend Karl Rove, the president’s main political advisor.

But think about it. You can give in to just about each and every excuse made in the last week regarding l’affaire Valerie (or Plameout, or Intimigate—choose your own scandal name), but the central fact remains the same. Plame’s husband very well might be a Bush-hating Democrat. Partisans on Capitol Hill probably do smell blood in the water. “Everybody” might have known Valerie Plame was a CIA agent anyway. But the fact is that a member of George W. Bush’s administration appears to have blown a covert agent’s cover to a reporter for political reasons during wartime. The word “treason” gets bandied about an awful lot these days, and I’ve never been a fan of how it has been devalued. But in this case, it hardly gets any closer to the real thing, and even this president’s father, once the head of the CIA, said so.

In April of 1999, during the dedication of a CIA building in his name in Langley, Va., George H.W. Bush said this:

We need more protection for the methods we use to gather intelligence and more protection for our sources, particularly our human sources, people that are risking their lives for their country. Even though I’m a tranquil guy now at this stage of my life, I have nothing but contempt and anger for those who betray the trust by exposing the name of our sources. They are, in my view, the most insidious of traitors.


Growing up overseas among American-embassy personnel, I quickly learned that everyone knows that there are things one doesn’t talk about out loud, like who among your group is with the CIA—because someone is. Those people often have to work in places and among people who are less than savory.

Valerie Plame worked for a front company called Brewster-Jennings. She wasn’t a “black passport diplomat” as we were, and quite likely my father’s in-embassy spook colleague was; Plame was “all the way in.” And the minute Robert Novak and his White House sources (and he says there were two of them) blew her cover, he blew the cover of everyone she ever worked with who said they were employed by “Brewster-Jennings.” That is truly despicable.

So think about the rolling load of excuses being trotted out by the RNC and their “Republican surrogates at Fox News,” as ABC White House correspondent Terry Moran put it. They’re all meant to cloud the air, to add to the confusion. But it’s there, plain as day: Someone in this White House exposed an agent solely for political revenge. No excuse in the world can get them off for that.

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The Fix (8/4/2010)

Police State (7/7/2010)

Funny Business (6/9/2010)

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