Sunday, March 21, 2004

Quiet Time

Sunday mornings are usually quiet time for me. I wake up early, knowing that my spouse is already at work, and that my teenage daughter is going to sleep until approximately noon. In those five or six hours that I have the place to myself, I usually get more accomplished than at any point during the preceding six days. Today, I have fences to mend. No, really, I planned on repairing some fencing in my yard that's taken a beating over this past harsh winter. That, and clear out the day lilly beds. And cut down the pampas grass around the poolscape that turned bamboo-tan color about 5 months ago. But a cold front came through last night, it's cloudy, and the wind is howling this morning. So, the winter of my discontent continues, and none of the stuff I planned to do today will end up getting done.

Interestingly enough, perhaps that's kind of a metaphor for where we are right now as a political consumers. Taken as a whole, the events that have transpired inside the Washington, DC beltway over the past 3 years are no less than political nuclear winter. As a nation, we've been stunned into abject political numbness and inaction by events, actions, and reactions that are largely outside of our control. It's the only reasonable conclusion I can draw when I attempt to fathom how monkey boy's junta is still able to operate out of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue rather than Allenwood Prison. There is no other explanation.

The hubris of the Bush administration continues to astound, even in the wake of disclosures and revelations by former high ranking officials such as David Kay, Paul O'Neill, and now Richard Clarke. Never, I repeat, never has a sitting administration received such scathing criticism from ex-employees who at one time enjoyed unfettered access to the oval office. We're not talking about political fences sitters and opportunists here, either. These gentlemen are not David Gergen. Every one of them are confirmed hawks who either formulated or strongly supported Bush administration policies in their respective areas of expertise.

Of particular immediate note is the upcoming 60 Minutes interview with Richard Clarke. Since the calendar says it's only March, my guess is that this interview will end up in the political dust bin by the time anyone other than hardcore political junkies are paying attention. I would have been much happier to see the fallout from this interview happen after Labor Day rather than before Easter. Never the less, the fact that it's happening at all is pretty much unprecedented.

Is the interview with Richard Clarke the proverbial straw that breaks the camel's back? With every such revelation about the inside workings of the Bush administration, I keep thinking "Well, 'Lizabeth, it's finally the big one." Yet, public response continues to be nothing short of a collective national yawn. Approval polls for the Bush administration, while trending slightly down, have made no quantum movements in either direction. So, while my impact analysis of Clarke's "smart bomb" on the neocon movement has yet to be written, I refuse to once again prime myself with false expectations. The body armor that the Bush administration is wearing seems to be impenetrable. However, there's always hope:
"The president dragged me into a room with a couple of other people, shut the door, and said, 'I want you to find whether Iraq did this.' Now he never said, 'Make it up.' But the entire conversation left me in absolutely no doubt that George Bush wanted me to come back with a report that said Iraq did this. "I said, 'Mr. President. We've done this before. We have been looking at this. We looked at it with an open mind. There's no connection.' "He came back at me and said, "Iraq! Saddam! Find out if there's a connection.' And in a very intimidating way. I mean that we should come back with that answer. We wrote a report."

Clarke continued, "It was a serious look. We got together all the FBI experts, all the CIA experts. We wrote the report. We sent the report out to CIA and found FBI and said, 'Will you sign this report?' They all cleared the report. And we sent it up to the president and it got bounced by the National Security Advisor or Deputy. It got bounced and sent back saying, 'Wrong answer. ... Do it again.'

"I have no idea, to this day, if the President saw it, because after we did it again, it came to the same conclusion. And frankly, I don't think the people around the president show him memos like that. I don't think he sees memos that he doesn't-- wouldn't like the answer."

If the Clarke interview represents nothing more than another sign that political spring will inevitably arrive, then I suppose it's a good thing. And maybe we, as a nation, can finally get around to some real fence mending.