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Political Animal

Those Who Were Wrong

By Brian Morton | Posted 5/28/2008

Back in 1992, Ross Perot told us we needed someone who could run the country like a business, and since he made millions running a business, he was just the guy to do it. He was an expert, you see.

All the experts told us in 2000 that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney were just the people to run the country. They had Donald Rumsfeld and Colin Powell with them--the grownups would be running the country, they said.

All the experts told us that Bush could continue to increase the surplus he was handed by the Clinton administration, while at the same time giving massive tax cuts back to the American people (which turned out to be the richest part of the American people, but we didn't know that at the time, since the experts didn't tell us that--experts usually being fairly rich themselves).

When Powell told us in a speech to the United Nations that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction--listing them by type and tonnage--the experts told us to listen to him, that we couldn't afford not to. The experts didn't say much at the time about those supposed links between al-Qaida and Saddam Hussein; the Bushies said there were, and they're the grownups, right?

The experts are the ones who have all the behind-the-scenes knowledge--they talk to all the big shots "on the inside" all the time. Big shots like Tim Russert of NBC's Meet the Press assure them that anything they told him in private phone calls was off the record (which is pretty astounding, for someone who presumably lists his occupation as "journalist" on his tax forms). We had to hear about this when he was called in to testify after someone in the Bush administration burned the cover of a covert intelligence asset, now-former CIA agent Valerie Plame. And her cover was blown as retribution for her husband speaking about those self-same supposed weapons of mass destruction that the president told us about in his State of the Union address.

You start to wonder, whose side are these "experts" on?

After seven and a half years of being wrong, at what point do the experts fail to have any credibility? You can see where Bush's credibility stands with the American people; every month pollsters like Gallup and Zogby discover new lows in his popularity rating, his efficiency rating, in the country's right track/wrong track rating. The day before the 2006 elections, Bush said he'd keep Rumsfeld. And the day after he fired Rumsfeld, Bush denied lying about it. That's the definition of "without credibility" right there.

But what about the rest of them? Why do the people who were so wrong for so long still own the microphones?

Right now Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, who was tossed out of his own state's Democratic Party in the 2006 elections by an upstart challenger named Ned Lamont, is all but hinting that he'll make a speech at the GOP national convention this summer. It was understandable that many in the Democratic Senate stood behind him--they had to work with the man, nutty as he has become. But how come we don't hear from the people who were right, the people who argued that perhaps it was a good thing Lieberman was no longer pissing inside the tent?

People like Slate's Jacob Weisberg, who told us that Lamont's victory over Lieberman "spells Democratic disaster," still occupy far too much space in the sphere of opinion. People like liberal hawk-at-the-time Richard Cohen of The Washington Post are still with us, despite falling hook, line, and sinker for the Powell U.N. speech. People like Thomas Friedman of The New York Times, who has told us so many times that the next six months in Iraq are critical that the phrase became a blogger cliché. Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution, the pro-war liberal hawk who said in 2002, in Slate, "This will not be another Vietnam or another Korea," is never denied column %uFFFDspace on the New York Times op-ed page any time he asks.

That business Perot told us he wanted to run was the country, and every one of us is behind the wheel. But after a few times the guy in the garage tells you that the problem is your spark plugs, and it turns out that it's not, at some point you find another garage.

And after it's pretty obvious that you've been sold a lemon on the advice of all those experts, why are we still having to listen to them?

All the people who talked us into this war are still the ones on television, in the newspapers, and on the radio telling us variations on the same thing they said years ago. Then, come the new administration, they'll still be the same "experts" we get, with no acknowledgement that they were ever wrong.

And the ones who were right? It's as if they never existed.

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