Outrage Overload

I guess most of us have become numb to the ‘outrage-a-day’ policies of the Bush administration. The primary tactic of this gaggle of traitors, liars, and thieves seems to have been to do at least one unbelievably stupid, arrogant, questionable, or downright illegal thing each day. While the press corps focuses (for a moment, at least) on that act, they’re already onto the next. The net result is the accrual of a sludge-pile of aberrant behavior so deep that no one can (or wants to) slog through it. It’s virtually impossible to achieve even a modicum of justice or truth. Make the scandal so dense, complex and multi-faceted that few have the time or inclination to attempt to challenge or even make sense of it.

Couple this modus operandi with the general malaise and scandal-fatigue of the American people, and you have a recipe for the deterioration of our government and our very way of life, the likes of which I believe this nation has never seen.

All that being said, there seems to be an escalation of the Bushies’ strategy of scandal bombardment. It seems like they take pride in outdoing themselves, and the events of the last few days seem to confirm that.

First, we have George once again attempting — like a broken record — to justify our continued involvement in Iraq. His entreaties have become less and less convincing, so much so that even many of those who have always marched in lockstep with him are publicly demanding a ‘change of course.’ (Unfortunately, in the Republican’s playbook, that’s not a euphemism for withdrawal of troops but rather for a change in policy. But at least it represents a small amount of progress.)

Michael When George and his cronies realize that he’s not making any headway, welcome to the stage once again Michael ‘Mephistopheles’ Chertoff, our head of Homeland Security, informing us about his ‘gut feeling‘ that we’re about to have another attack by Al Qaeda on U.S. soil. (Am I crazy, or shouldn’t we expect better of our government than that? I seem to recall that the Department of Homeland Security was created and the rest of our government restructured around it so that we would be basing our policies and our actions on something a little bit more sound than opinions, fears, and folklore.)

But this, too, is a familiar play from the neo-con playbook: When public opinion turns against you, fill the populace with as much fear and anxiety as possible. It doesn’t matter whether it’s substantiated or not; in fact, the neo-cons seem to have learned that it’s actually better if it’s vague and unnamed. The more vague the fear is — using the ‘broken-clock-is-right-twice-a-day’ analogy — the better the opportunity down the line of using whatever may happen to falsely substantiate their claims.

You may want to take a deep breath here, because all of this is happening against a backdrop of Sara Taylor, the former White House political director, claiming executive privilege in order to refuse to answer any questions regarding the firings and hirings of U.S. Attorneys, in spite of a subpoena by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Then comes the news that Bush has ordered former White House counsel Harriet ‘Love Note’ Miers not only not to answer questions but also not even to appear before the Committee. On the count of three, everybody say ‘Jeezus H. Christ!’

OK. Now add to the mix that former Surgeon General Richard Carmona told the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform that the Bush administration demanded that he withhold medical findings from the American public when those findings weren’t in synch with the non-scientific right-wing-religion-driven agenda. For example, he was forbidden from stating that abstinence-only programs don’t work. (Don’t forget, millions of taxpayer dollars got passed along to those faith-based organizations that W loves so much to espouse the bullshit that abstinence is the only way to prevent AIDS. Worse than the loss of taxpayer money is the loss of life that results from their failure to state the truth and consequent dissemination of misinformation.)

Now, I’m still reeling from the commutation of Scooter Libby’s sentence and the subsequent payment of his fine by an unnamed source. (I can’t seem to rid my brain of the image of some low-level neo-con operative going into an inside-the-beltway 7-Eleven and asking for a banana Slurpee, a pack of Marlboro lights, and a money order for $250,000. Oh, yeah, and one of them scratch tickets.)

So when things start stacking up like this, is it any wonder that most Americans simply short circuit from the overload?

Glare Ice from the Dick

If you’ve ever wondered how a transcript can fail to take nuance into account, consider the following exchange yesterday between Dick Cheney and Wolf Blitzer:

BLITZER: You know, we’re out of time, but a couple of issues I want to raise with you: your daughter, Mary. She’s pregnant. All of us are happy she’s going to have a baby. You’re going to have another grandchild. Some of the — some critics are suggesting — for example, a statement from someone representing Focus on the Family, “Mary Cheney’s pregnancy raises the question of what’s best for children. Just because it’s possible to conceive a child outside of the relationship of a married mother and father doesn’t mean that it’s best for the child.” Do you want to respond to that?

CHENEY: No.

BLITZER: She’s, obviously, a good daughter —

CHENEY: I’m delighted I’m about to have a sixth grandchild, Wolf. And obviously I think the world of both my daughters and all of my grandchildren. And I think, frankly, you’re out of line with that question.

BLITZER: I think all of us appreciate —

CHENEY: I think you’re out of line.

BLITZER: We like your daughters. Believe me, I’m very sympathetic to Liz and to Mary. I like them both. That was a question that’s come up, and it’s a responsible, fair question.

CHENEY: I just fundamentally disagree with you.

BLITZER: I want to congratulate you on having another grandchild.

Absent from the written transcript are the icy glares of the VP, along with Blitzer’s bad-little-boy look when Cheney challenged him. Blitzer’s physical reaction to Cheney made a deer in the headlights seem like a Tibetan monk deep in meditation. (CNN has also conveniently edited out all of the uncomfortable pauses from the video that they now have posted on their website.)

Here’s the unedited version:

Mary Cheney herself is a public figure. For whatever reason, she decided to go public about her homosexuality and her surrogacy. (She conveniently managed to avoid talking about any of that until there was a book deal in the works and until her father’s tenuous 2004 election campaign was already over with.) How absurd that Daddy Dick considers all of this a private matter.

The fact that Dick can’t own up to this is newsworthy, particularly because the administration that Dick so staunchly defends (perhaps “barricades” would be a better word) is making policy decisions about gay marriage, gays in the military, etc. Why shouldn’t he have to explain his position and the disparity between his personal life (the oh-so-sacred family) and his public positions? Cheney, as a man with apparently no conscience, simply cannot reconcile the fact his job was made possible in part by organizations like Focus on the Family, who condemn his own daughter without compunction. So his only option is to lash out. What a scumbag.

It was not, however, Blitzer’s only option to weenie out and back away. Apparently, he’s been following Larry King’s lead when it comes to follow-up questions. I got news for you, Wolf. The tension that you almost created but then backed away from is what makes both good journalism and compelling television.

The Puppetmaster Speaks

Did anyone see Dick ‘Puppetmaster’ Cheney backpedaling on the school voucher issue on Meet the Press today?  Suffice it to say that it was delicious.  He’s perhaps the most masterful spin-doctor the administration has trotted out so far.  He managed to do a 180 degree turn for the administration on the issue of school vouchers (which is essentially right-wing rhetoric for the government — your tax dollars — subsidizing religious schools).