Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Bush: "I Know Nothing!!"

Just when I was about to give George W. Bush credit for one of his policies, he does the unthinkable—again. He pleads ignorance. The recent flap over the United Arab Emirates buying several ports on the eastern seaboard from a British company has triggered a dust-up between Bush and the Republican congressional leadership. Congress has presented a bill to stop the sale which has already been approved by the Bush administration and Bush has promised to veto such a bill. Kudos to Mr. Bush for standing up to the demagogues who are making political hay over a non-issue in an election year.

In times like these the Democrats do well to sit back and egg on the combatants hoping that a full-scale war breaks out, and apparently it has. Tom DeLay and other Republicans have threatened to overturn any veto, so this really does mean war. In any such battle, an observer must choose sides, and at first blush, Bush is my man on this. Security is not the issue. The congressmen and women are making this an issue because 1) they want to appear strong on security and 2) they want to distance themselves from Bush who is becoming politically weak. In the end, we know it’s all just bullshit.

But then what does Bush do to me? He pulls a fast one and pleads ignorance. His press secretary Scotty the Body McClellan says that Bush did not even know about the decision to allow the sale until “several days ago.” He what? He didn’t know? Wait a minute, now I don’t know whose side I’m on. On the one hand, I understand that this future operator of a major US port is an Arab nation who once backed the Taliban government of Afghanistan and, according to former CIA Director and Medal of Freedom recipient George Tenet, supported Osama bin Laden, but on the other hand, security is the job of the US federal government and not the port operator. But, on the third hand, if the president hasn’t even looked at the facts of the case, then who the hell has? Who signed off on this deal?

I realize that McClellan is probably just setting up a situation whereby the president can retract the deal, backpedal a little to save face, and come up with a compromise with the congressional Republican leadership. He can come out in a couple days and say, OK now I’ve looked at the case and you guys have some valid points, let’s deal.

But frankly, I’m a little tired of the president’s ignorance defense. It’s been used on every single major issue the president has faced, and it’s getting old. For instance, he didn’t know that al Qaeda was a threat to the US, even though an intelligence briefing explicitly said so on Aug 6, 2001. Had no idea that the enemy would ever use airplanes as weapons, even though that strategy had been wargamed in the past. Iraq didn’t have WMD’s? Hmmm, didn’t know that. The Yellowcake Theory was a canard? Plead ignorance. Bush had no idea that a postwar insurgency would take place, or now a civil war, although analysts had predicted this back in 1991. The US would not be greeted as liberators? Who’d have guessed that. Torture at Guantanamo? Nope, not aware. Overseas renditions? Huh, din’t know. Abu Ghraib? Nope, couldn’t have known. Where’s Osama bin Laden? No clue. Did Bush know that his VP’s staff was leaking classified information about CIA officers to the press for political gotcha games? No. Bush also didn’t know that the New Orleans levees would breach in a Hurricane, although a lot of other people were well-aware of that nightmare. HeckuvaJob Brownie was an unqualified boob? Not my department. People were dying in the Ninth Ward? Didn’t know. Cheney got liquored up and shot someone? He didn’t tell me about it.

Now it’s the ports. His defense is that he simply was not made aware of the situation, so how could he have known? In the next few days, of course, Bush’s handlers will make him aware of the facts, and they will assemble the Congressional leaders and they will all march out to the Rose Garden with a grand announcement that the president has been the voice of reason and calm in this great misunderstanding.

So much for Harry Truman’s desk plaque that said, “The Buck Stops Here.”

Mr. Bush, what on earth do you know?

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