Thursday, July 31, 2003

 Responsibility without consequences 

After weeks of ever-increasing media scrutiny, finger-pointing and tossing around the hot potato of blame, the President finally decided to chime in with an alleged acceptance of responsibility for his own words in the State of the Union address last January. At least that's what we're supposed to believe - that he has final say over what he reads off the teleprompter.

The president's taking of "personal responsibility" for the charge in his State of the Union address that Iraq sought nuclear material in Africa followed three weeks in which he allowed others on his staff and at the CIA to take the blame for including the charge, which was doubted by U.S. intelligence and was later learned to be based in part on forged documents.

However, if you read the fuller content of his remarks today, you find no real acceptance of responsibility of anything. That's because he doesn't really believe there's anything for him to accept blame for in the first place. A man so convinced of his own righteousness certainly won't apologize for his faith, or accept any real blame for what only looks to him like clamoring from naysayers. These words about "accepting responsibility" are merely ear-candy that he wants to throw out to the crowd, in the hopes that they'll stop badgering him with real questions and go back to tossing softballs his way. Pay note to how he furrows his brow and becomes curt and brusque when a reporter tries to ask followup questions - he seems genuinely surprised to be challenged thusly, and takes it as a personal affront. (Although one may justifiably wonder why he wouldn't, given the free pass he's had with the media in general for nearly 2 years.)

Bush is a professional schmoozer who doesn't really know how to handle tough-going - whenever things actually did get tough for him in his life, something has always come up and bailed him out of his own incompetence. That would be fine, perhaps even the source of an amusing Chauncey Gardener-like story, if not for the fact that this guy has control over the world's largest military.

Fortunately it looks like the multitude of issues surrounding the impetus for war have some real media traction, and won't simply be winked and charmed away as if he were at a fraternity reunion. He's gotten away with subpar performance in everything he's done his whole life - but he won't be able to much longer. Sometime soon he'll finally learn what responsibility really means....although I suppose even then he'll deny that he ever did anything wrong. When you have lots of money and power you can pay your enablers to foster your dysfunction indefinitely, and that seems to be the case with Bush and his surreal personality cult.

Anyway, as far as the investigations go, I still quibble with some of the lingering timidity in some of the media corps, but I do recognize a willingness to delve deeper into the pertinent issues that definitely wasn't there just 2 months ago. I just hope they keep following the paper trails, the money, and the story, because it's becoming increasingly clear - not just to bloggers, but to the general public - that this whole war scenario was a concoction done for cheap political gain and cronyism, but with a greatly underestimated human and economic cost.

The pieces are slowly coming back together - the PNAC cabal and their ability to manipulate an intellectually stunted president via his inflated self-image, a secretive VP with shady energy meetings and contacts, and a constellation of loyal but incompetent shoe-shiners who stay in Bush's good graces in spite of their dearth of skill in real foreign policy planning or intelligence assessment. (And the Republicans were gloating that the "adults" were back in charge?) If Bob Woodward hadn't turned into a mere Bush biographer he'd probably have a field day investigating this whole sordid episode. I guess this just means a new generation of honest reporters will have to step up and throw back the detritus and watch the White House roaches scatter in the painful light of day.

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