Friday, December 06, 2002

Do you ever get the feeling that reporters are sneaking stuff into the newspaper behind somebody's back? The New York Times reports today that Henry Kissinger's refusal to disclose his client list while taking up a government post violates the law. That would make Ari Fleischer's official White House statements to the contrary lies.

But to find that little detail, you'll have to scroll all the way to the bottom of a completely different story --- though one which also bears on how much independence we can really expect from Kissinger's commission.

It turns out that the Republican leadership had an informal agreement to let the families of 9/11 attack victims approve one of the five Republican committee members (with Sens. McCain and Shelby, who have close ties to the families, acting as their agents). Which is particularly significant because the commission will require six votes to issue a subpoena --- so if all five Republicans are beholden to the White House, then Dubya and co. will be able to squelch any inquiry which threatens to make them the least bit uncomfortable.

And the families have made a perfectly respectable choice, former Republican Sen. Warren Rudman. But that's not enough for Trent Lott, who has refused to agree to the appointment. The families claim he's being pressured by the White House, but it can't be --- Ari Fleischer said explicitly that the White House, having chosen Kissinger would have no voice in the selection of the other committee members. And if that's a lie too, then Fleischer had better be careful. If he keeps this sort of thing up, he may wind up with a reputation.

Besides, the White House has said that really they want independent inquiry into the handling of terrorism before 9/11. Perhaps they just don't want that independence taken to extremes --- otherwise, we might wind up with a free-floating inquiry into anything the President and his associates have ever done in their public and private lives, which could drag on for years, issue thousands of subpoenas, cost millions of dollars, and delve into private matters of no legitimate interest to the public at all. And that would offend Republican ideas of good government. All things in moderation.

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...

Fox is remaking "Dragnet", the old TV show in which (in its second incarnation) no-nonsense Sergeant Joe Friday was frequently dealing with low-life, irresponsible hippie scum. In the role of Friday, they cast Ed O'Neill, best known, particularly on Fox, for his portrayal of Al Bundy, the feckless, put-upon, low-life, irresponsible husband in "Married with Children".

Accidental self-parody, or sly pomo self-commentary? We report, you decide.