March 30, 2004

A Fool and his Office

. . . are soon parted in a democracy. What the hell is this, Bush? Do you have any idea how sad this looks? Oh, not that I can blame you a whit for it, not after that disastrous appearance by Condi on 60 Minutes this weekend. Here's a thought: The next time you want someone to go down in flames, send 'em out with a can of gasoline. It's faster--and just think of the ratings!

Look, Republicans: Get off the defensive. You don't do well on the defensive--no one does, which is how we got the expression that the best defense is a good offense. The more you act as though there's something to fear in this Richard Clarke thing, the more the public will perceive that there must be.

Here's the essence of the Richard Clarke testimony that you are not focusing on enough: The guy said one thing in his official capacity, which capacity was his job of assessing terrorist threats and capabilities, and is saying another in a personal venture that is very profitable to him. You should be flaying him alive for this. It's what's known as a "gimme." I could go to town on this part alone (and perhaps later on I will, but right now it's your turn).

Instead, you sent poor Dr. Rice out there to insist that she can't testify, though she'd like to, because it violates a very important principle. Hey, guys, I watched the whole thing and that was it. That was all you could give us? You've got a guy making oodles of money saying you're all imbeciles who are jeopardizing the safety of Americans through your gross incompetence . . . and the best you can come up with is that testifying in public violates an important principle?

Did you forget everything you learned from reading The Art of Political War, Mr. Bush? Or just the really important parts, like this:

"The audiences that will determine your fate are audiences that you will first have to persuade. You will have to find a way to reach them, get them to listen, and then to support you."

"You only have thirty seconds to make your point. Even if you had time to develop an argument, the audience you need to reach (the undecided and those in the middle who are not paying much attention) would not get it. . . . Worse, while you have been making your argument the other side has already painted you as a mean-spirited, borderline racist controlled by religious zealots, securely in the pockets of the rich. Nobody who sees you this way is going to listen to you in any case. You are politically dead."

"Republicans often pursue a conservative strategy of waiting for the other side to attack. In football, this is known as a 'prevent defense.' In politics it is the strategy of losers."

I'm sure the point of Condoleeza Rice repeating that testifying in public violates an important principle was to satisfy the requirements of that second quoted paragraph: You only have thirty seconds to make your point. Problem is, it must be a point that resonates with the electorate. In fact, let's see if Horowitz has something to say about that . . . why, bless my soul, he surely does:

"In a democratic political context, the winner is the one who persuades the people to identify with him. In a democracy, this is the first--and perhaps only--principle of political war: The side of the underdog, which is the side of the people, wins."

Now you tell me: Who comes off as the underdog here? Richard Clarke, apologizing to the American people for having failed them, wringing his hands, shaking his head, explaining his reversal of position from his 2002 testimony to his bestselling book as being due to fear of losing his job (a fear with which every American, particularly given the economic climate of the last few years, can certainly identify)?

Or Condoleeza Rice trying to stand on a principle which she says is very important without ever saying why it is important?

Wait--I re-read the transcript. Apparently it's important because it preserves the separation of powers. Look, try to grok something here, Republicans: Whenever you use phrases associated with high school government classes, people go narcoleptic on you. I certainly didn't recall her saying that when I watched the appearance, and I was trying to pay attention. But "separation of powers" is one of those phrases that instantly triggers visions of your fat, bald American History teacher droning, "And the three branches of our government aaarrre? . . . Anyone? . . . Anyone? . . . Bueller?"

Condi, you only have thirty seconds and that ain't enough time for a civics lesson. Goddamn, girl, get the reasons out there and get them out there fast! Here. I even wrote you a few:

"The problem with having a sitting National Security Advisor testify publicly is that it would politicize this critical office. There is a very real risk that future advisors would carry out their duties with a mind to protecting their jobs instead of focusing on what is important, which is ensuring the security of the American people." No one can argue that ensuring his security is not important. Score.

"While testifying publicly would be of immense benefit to me personally, it would ultimately be to the detriment of our national security." And for crying out loud don't say anything more than that! Let Bradley ask you how it would be to the detriment of national security. Now he's playing on your field, girlfriend. As for the how, you're the Ph.D., I'm the medical transcriptionist; you figure it out. I'm sure you've got something. I can't do everything for you.

"Frankly, I'm shocked this has even come up. To my mind, the better question is, 'Where were Richard Clarke's concerns when it was his job to voice them?' That's what keeps me awake at night--the fear that there are others like Clarke who are more concerned about their own job security than about our nation's security." He's blasting you, after all. It's more than okay to fire one back. That isn't "going negative." That's just common sense. "The side of the underdog, which is the side of the people, wins." But we like when the underdog hits back. That's why Rocky and The Karate Kid made bazillions of dollars at the box office. I SHOULD NOT HAVE TO EXPLAIN THIS TO YOU. This concept should be written in your DNA.

Okay, honey? Okay? I'm winging these as I sit here in my bathrobe. I think in rap music it's called "freestylin'." Meanwhile you got paid consultants who sweat this stuff and charge for it. And the best you could get to was that It Violates a Very Important Principle. Take your media consultant and fire his ass. You been robbed.

Posted by Ilyka at March 30, 2004 04:49 PM in news

I was actually embarrassed for Condi when I read that. How could such a thing have happened to make the NSA look so godawfully bad?

She really needs to fire those dim bulbs and hire you on.

PS - It's great to see you blogging again! Now I don't have to worry about dealing with the important stuff. I can go back to discussing boogers and flying ninja hobos and stuff like that.

Posted by: Jim at March 30, 2004 05:42 PM

Uh, Jim, that's all you've ever done.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at March 30, 2004 06:04 PM

Oh, yeah, right. Well now I won't have to feel guilty about it.

Posted by: Jim at March 30, 2004 06:34 PM