Wednesday, December 04, 2002

So, if my blog entries had titles, this one would be titled "They Haf Vays".

The talk of the liberal blogsphere over the past few days has been the bizarre behavior of former Bush aide John DiIulio, recently notorious as a major source for an Esquire article highly critical of the administration, who issued two separate "apologies" which contradict each other, the second describing the articles charges, largely taken verbatim from a letter he wrote to the reporter (and, as Thomas Spencer points out, repeated in brief by DiIulio himself in this Philadelphia Inquirer op-ed piece) as distorted and baseless --- though details on how are somewhat scant; as Joe Conason quips, he won't be doing much typing with those broken arms.

But DiIulio isn't the only Bush appointee to have behaved very strangely since the administration got into office. In its own way, the curious circumstance of the resignation of the EPA head, Christie Whitman, is even weirder. Whitman, you'll recall, is a former New Jersey governor with reasonably strong environmental creds who was tapped to give the administration some credibility on environmental issues --- and then instantly and fatally undermined when her bosses, speaking through Ari Fleischer, overrode a policy on CO2 caps which she had already announced, and she was forced to recant and apologize. Since then, as the polluter-friendly direction of White House policy has become increasingly clear, she has been reduced to irrelevance --- the last time I saw mention of her without seeking it out was a photo op in which the blueblooded Whitman posed behind the wheel of a low-emission garbage truck, looking very much like Mike Dukakis in a tank.

Yet she has not resigned. That is the curious circumstance, and it begs for an explanation. The New York Times profferred one in an editorial last week, that she's trying to fight the good fight for what she believes in as best she can, even in an administration dominated and driven by shills for industry. Which is fatuous; the CO2 policy dispute, such as it was, made it brutally clear even outside the administration that the shills would get pretty much whatever they wanted, and that all they'll let Whitman do is provide a tasteful green garnish on whatever slop they're serving up. It can't have escaped the attention of Whitman herself. If she wants to have an impact, then resigning on principle, with a strong statement of what she believes in might well, by itself, have more impact on national policy than her entire two years in office. (It can hardly have less). And if she no longer even cares about making an impact, can't she just find "personal reasons" to end the humiliation? Evidently not; it drags on.

Clearly, they haf vays of making you behave. The obvious one, in Whitman's case, would be to threaten to scuttle her political career; acting to discredit the administration (even a resignation for "personal reasons" would cause chatter) would certainly make a lot of political enemies, very quickly. But Whitman doesn't really need her career; she's independantly wealthy. In the vulgate, she has her "fuck you" money, and has no material reason not to walk at a time of her choosing. So, if that's what's going on, then Whitman is yet another politician who would rather just hang onto office (or the prospect of future office) than do anything decent with it. Which, if you believe DiIulio's critique (since recanted) of the White House generally, would mean she's not so different from the rest of them after all...


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