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May 2004

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Beast of the Month - May 2004

Condoleezza Rice, National Security Advisor

"I yam an anti-Christ..."

John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) of The Sex Pistols, "Anarchy in the UK"

"Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S."

Title of August 6, 2001 Presidential Daily Brief which Ms. Rice claims wasn't a specific enough warning

 

Ever since the Super Bowl Nipplegate fiasco, Janet Jackson hasn't been on a good PR roll. The only bright spot for her is she isn't her brother Michael. Faced with bad press and a lukewarm-selling album of weak songs, she decided to appear on Saturday Night Live. And that's when she starred in what would have to be the funniest skit on the show in over a decade: impersonating National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice (The Konformist Beast of the Month) during the 9-11 Commission hearings, she appeared overwhelmed by the questions, which leads her to open up her blouse and reveal her right nipple in desperation.

Needless to say, if Janet Jackson can earn a big cheap laugh off your situation, things aren't going well.

It all started going bad for Condi and the Shrub crew with the release in March of Richard Clarke's stunning book Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror. In it, Clarke, Bush's top counterterrorism official, exposed Little Georgie's claim as a powerful leader in the "War on Terror" to be as phony as his May Day "Top Gun" stunt. To begin with, Dubya and his cohorts were barely interested in the issue of terrorism before September 11, as they were more focused on their pet obsessions of "Star Wars" defense and tax cuts for the rich. (As noted in the book 50 Reasons Not to Vote for Bush, on July 5, 2001, Clarke even bluntly declared in a White House meeting of high ranking officials: "Something really spectacular is going to happen here, and it's going to happen soon.") Then, after 9-11 (which Clarke partially attributes to the Bush Team's failures) they squandered the goodwill in both the US and the world on a costly and self-destructive war against Iraq, a battle that has nothing to do with combating the terrorism menace.

Pretty damning stuff. How did the Bush machine deal with the revelations? Like they always do: with sleazy and fraudulent smears. First, Dick Cheney declared that Richard Clarke was "out of the loop" on White House terrorism talks. Needless to say, if the claim the top counterterrorism official was "out of the loop" is true, that's pretty damning in itself. When this story didn't fly, they changed tactics: Clarke had a partisan motive for his criticism of the Bush Team. The problem with this story: Clarke is a hawkish registered Republican who served under Ronald Reagan and Georgie's daddy without complaint. They then moaned that Clarke waited to publish the book to maximize effect on the 2004 political campaign. In fact, as Clarke noted in a Today Show interview, "This book could've been published three months ago if the White House had let it. The White House sat on this book for three months as part of their security review of the text, and now blame me that it's coming out in March. The book could have been out in December, which is what I wanted to do. I'm not trying to put it in the middle of the election. They put it in the middle of the election."

When all this failed, Shrub and his minions went into creepy overdrive and alleged he was guilty of perjury for not stating his opposition to "Operation Iraqi Freedom" in previous classified testimony, selectively leaking fragments of his words to supposedly prove their point. There is quite some humor in this, charging the most honest man in the entire Bush Team as being a criminal liar. Of course, the charge was ludicrous, as it shouldn't be too surprising that, while giving testimony for the Bush Team in front of Congress, he tried to spin the facts in a positive way rather than inject his own personal opinions of what a miserable failure his employer had been. Senator Bob Graham, a conservative Democrat from Florida, had this to say: "To the best of my recollection, there is nothing inconsistent or contradictory in that testimony and what Mr. Clarke has said this week... if Mr. Clarke's testimony is to be released, it should be released in its entirety - not, as the Bush administration has done in the past, selectively edited so that only portions favorable to the White House are made public."

There's nothing new here in the attacks on Clarke, as both Paul O'Neill and Joseph Wilson have previously shown the nastiness of the Bushistas when insiders declare their emperor to be a naked fraud. Still, Clarke faced the attack like the warrior he is, and in testimony before the 9-11 Commission, came off like Harrison Ford as Jack Ryan. Why didn't he reveal his opinions in previous testimony? "No one asked me what I thought about the president's invasion of Iraq. By invading Iraq, the president has greatly undermined the war on terrorism." The audience, filled with friends and relatives of 9-11 victims, erupted into applause. Clarke then took it a step further, and apologized to these friends and relatives: "Your government failed you, and I failed you. We tried hard, but that doesn't matter. We failed you."

So far, the Bush Team has yet to apologize for anything. A telling moment came when Dubya fielded this query in a press conference: "In the last campaign, you were asked a question about the biggest mistake you'd made in your life, and you used to like to joke that it was trading Sammy Sosa. You've looked back before 9-11 for what mistakes might have been made. After 9-11, what would your biggest mistake be, would you say, and what lessons have learned from it?" Shrub, who smirked while making the crack four years ago, first replied, "I wish you'd have given me this written question ahead of time so I could plan for it." What followed was a painfully long moment of silence. Finally, he threw out this lame answer: "I'm sure something will pop into my head here in the midst of this press conference, with all the pressure of trying to come up with answer, but it hadn't yet. I don't want to sound like I have made no mistakes. I'm confident I have. I just haven't - you just put me under the spot here, and maybe I'm not as quick on my feet as I should be in coming up with one." This is not Harry Truman with a sign on his desk saying "The Buck Stops Here."

Besides not matching the ability to own up to failures like Richard Clarke has, they were unable to match Clarke's ability to present evidence. Faced with bogus charges of perjury and claims he was changing his story, he replied he was consistent, and added: "Let's take all of my emails and all the memos I sent to the national security adviser and her deputy from January 20 to September 11 and let's declassify all of them." Naturally, there are no plans of doing so. Meanwhile, Condi Rice first refused to speak before the 9-11 Commission, claiming that "nothing would be better, from my point of view, than to be able to testify..." In fact, there was nothing stopping her from doing so. She then offered the lame excuse that "there is an important principle involved here: it is a long-standing principle that sitting national security advisers do not testify before the Congress." No such precedent exists: Zbigniew Brzezinski (National Security Adviser to Jimmy Carter) and Sandy Berger (National Security Adviser to Slick Willie) did precisely that. And besides, the 9-11 Commission wasn't a Congressional Committee, but rather one created by George W. Bush. Meanwhile, though she claimed she couldn't speak before the Commission, she did take time to speak before all the networks and a special segment on 60 Minutes, smearing Clarke at every opportunity.

Eventually, even this pattern of evading responsibility and deception became so ludicrous as to become a liability. Rice finally relented, and appeared before the commission. Ms. Jackson's nasty jokes on SNL aside, her performance was probably a bit better than Bush Jr. (Under intense and deserving criticism, Georgie reluctantly agreed to appear before the commission as well, but only for three hours, privately and not under oath... and with Richard "Donkey Dick" Cheney at his side. This leads to the amusing image of every question being answered first by Cheney, then with Bush pointing to Dick and saying, "What he said.") Still, the most telling moment of her appearance began soon after she began with a statement minimizing the possibility that anyone could have known what was going to happen, that intelligence prior to 9-11 was "not specific as to time, nor place, nor manner of attack." Commissioner Richard Ben-Veniste then asked her about a Presidential Daily Briefing (PDB) memo. "I believe the title was, 'Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States.'" It all went downhill from there.

James P. Pinkerton, a conservative (albeit talented and honest) columnist, put it thusly: "If you knew that President Franklin D. Roosevelt had received a memo a month before Pearl Harbor entitled, 'Japanese Determined to Attack the United States in the Pacific,' and that he had done nothing about that information, would that knowledge change your perception of FDR as a wise war leader?" It definitely would deserve to.

To her credit, Rice isn't the worst liar in the Bush Team: she's no Cheney, Ashcroft or Redrum. Indeed, with the exception of Clarke and other defectors, she's only a few notches behind Colin Powell in her attempts to keep some shred of integrity while working in the belly of the Beast. Which makes her own Beasthood, as a symbol of the Bush Team's failures in both protecting the USA and owing up to its mistakes, all the more tragic. At some point, one expects she is going to look around the company she serves and wonder, "Why am I lying for these people again?"

In any case, we salute Condoleezza Rice as Beast of the Month. Congratulations, and keep up the great work, Condi!!!

 

Sources:

 

Special credit to Richard A. Clarke's Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror and Konformist editor Robert Sterling's 50 Reasons Not to Vote for Bush.

 

Conover, Bev. "Lies and Character Assassination Are Hallmarks of Team Bush." OnlineJournal.com 26 March 2004.

 

Dreyfuss, Robert. "A New Folk Hero." TomPaine.com 25 March 2004 <http://www.tompaine.com/feature2.cfm/ID/10149>.

 

Goldenberg, Suzanne and McGreal, Chris. "Clarke Challenges Condi Rice to Reveal Secret Emails." The Guardian 29 March 2004 <http://www.guardian.co.uk/uselections2004/story/0,13918,1180088,00.html>.

 

"Janet Jackson Spoofs Wardrobe Malfunction." Associated Press 11 April 2004.

 

Morgan, David. "Bush Remembers No Specific Mistakes Since 9/11." Reuters 14 April 2004.

 

Pinkerton, James P. "Pre-9/11 Doings are Coming to Light." Newsday 9 April 2004.

 

Schechter, Danny. "Mis-Covering Clarke." AlterNet.org 29 March 2004 <http://www.alternet.org/columnists/story/18265>.

 

Yen, Hope. "Experts See No Law Barring Rice Testimony." Associated Press 29 March 2004.

 

Yost, Pete. "Rice Rejects Calls for Public Testimony." Associated Press 29 March 2004.

 

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