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October 5, 2003 Opinion

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The week the country started splitting in two...
Okay, I take a week off from the magazine.  I fly to Cincinnati to see my brother and his family.  I have a fine time in the Queen City.  I see the last Reds game of the season the Montreal Expos won in the new baseball park there, a hulking Bauhaus concrete thing named, modestly, The Great American Ballpark.  I'm not sure it is.  But it was a nice visit, and I like Cincinnati.  It sits on deep green and gentle hills with fine views of the Ohio River.  And the folks there never forgot what Charles Dickens wrote in his American Notes: "The inhabitants of Cincinnati are proud of their city as one of the most interesting in America and with good reason."  Or that Winston Churchill found it America's most beautiful inland city.  Or that Henry Wadsworth Longfellow called it the "Queen City of the West."   Ah yes, home of Proctor and Gamble and Ivory Soap, and of Jerry Springer, Doris Day and Rosemary Clooney.
But there was political/cultural news breaking while I was in the Ohio Valley, and thus not attending to events.  The Washington Post finally picked up a story that had kicking around the web logs (blogs) since mid-July.  Joseph Wilson, our ambassador to Iraq in the first Bush administration, had embarrassed the current Bush administration. 
Somehow the Office of the Vice President had send Wilson off to Niger to check out reports that Saddam Hussein was attempting to buy yellow-cake uranium there to build nuclear weapons.  Wilson found this was not so.  And he reported that.  And the administration had said it was so, and Bush pretty much said so in the State of the Union address.  Wilson wrote a piece in the New York Times saying that he was sent, found nothing, and Bush said this was so anyway, in the January State of the Union.  Wilson was ticked off. 
Then the administration said oops, we shouldn't have said that in the State of the Union.  And the administration was, in turn, ticked off.  Wilson had embarrassed them with his "I told you so" piece.  And it seemed they were worried that others in the intelligence and diplomatic services might do what Wilson did - others would say they also had told the administration Iraq was not a particular threat and the international sanctions and UN inspections has Saddam pretty much contained, and could prove it. 
Heck, how do you explain the war then? 
So the problem was how to keep them all quiet and avoid further embarrassment.  The answer?   Demonstrate by example - show them what happens to folks who embarrass the administration with pesky facts. 
The Post reported that in late July two administration officials called at least six journalists and let them know Wilson's wife was an undercover CIA agent working on tracing Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), and one journalist, Robert Novak, published that information.  That ended the career of Wilson's wife, possibly endangered her life and the lives of any agents she was running, and was a pretty clear warning not to mess with Bush, and particularly not to mess with his chief political advisor Karl Rove.  There are many reports that he said inside the White House and to reporters, "Wilson's wife is fair game."
As James C. Moore, co-author of Bush's Brain - The Political History of Karl Rove put it  - "Rove wanted to send a message to everyone in the intelligence community that they all needed to keep their mouths shut. As the war was being sold, intelligence cooked, and the media spun, Rove and the White House had informed intelligence operatives and scientists that they were not to publicly repudiate the phony claims...."
Get Wilson.  Get his wife.  Get his family.  Folks will back off when they see what could happen to them.  Well, it's an interesting theory.
And that's one interpretation of what happened. 
And then this was the week the David Kay "report" came out, actually a preliminary report, on his efforts on behalf of the administration to find and catalog all the WMD in Iraq that would prove we had to act alone, with only the UK and Australia, and go to war immediately to overthrow the government of Iraq and occupy that country.  It was self-defense.  We had no choice.  And Kay came up empty.  Oops again.
Well, a friend from Albany wrote and said she was relieved the thugs who would go after someones wife and family for political revenge were finally revealed for what they were - thugs.  She was glad the story finally had legs.
I wrote his back, being a bit too cynical and sarcastic:
There is much in the press on this.  I guess the legs are there.  One might read the National Review on this - William F. Buckley's publication.  There Mark Levin says it's really Joe Wilson's fault.  After all, he brought all this attention on himself, says Levin.  He should have known that someone in the administration would blow his wife's cover to get even.  That will probably be the defense of all this if it comes to someone purposely exposing a CIA agent and breaking the law.
Well, I suspect there is a lot of sympathy for what Rove and Bush and others may have done here.  Most Americans have seen The Godfather.  Someone disses you?  You aren't shown the proper respect?  Well, then maybe something bad happens to that person's wife, or to his kids.  That's the way the world works.  To think otherwise is pretty damned na´ve. 
It's a matter of respect and honor.  We liked Marlon Brando in that role as "the don" who sent messages that way - something bad happens to your family if you get too "independent."   So you have to admire Bush and Company for dealing with those who don't show them the proper respect, and showing them the consequences in a "real world" manner. 
Wilson got uppity and ambitious, and he's lucky he didnt wake up one morning with the severed head of a horse on the pillow next to him in bed.  As it is, the CIA woman, his wife, is out of a career and some of her sources may get burned, as in sort of killed.  But it shows you don't mess with Bush and Rove.  I suspect that kind of a show of strength pleases a whole lot of Americans.  Don't mess with Texas?  Something like that.
The whole war was built on the same paradigm, if you'll forgive that term.  Think of Saddams son's bodies on display.  You don't mess with these guys.
Wilson ticked off the White House and the White House went after his wife, his family.  That's life.  You learn to keep your mouth shut.
You may be repelled by the idea of this "Don Corleone" model of governance and diplomacy, but I'll bet you much more than have of the country is pleased by it, because they like feeling they are victims and it's high time to hit back and show the world that no one messes with us - about anything. 
Bush will win the next election because folks would rather have 'Don Corleone' cut throats and "make" folks respect us, than have some wimp "listen to concerns." 
Perhaps I am reading the mood out there wrong, but there is a not-so-secret respect for "our bully" bitch-slapping the French and all like them.  It appeals to something deep in the American soul, the smile when the guy who thinks he's so smart and good finds his wife and kids dead.  So who's so smart now?  That sort of thing.
Are you following the Ashcroft efforts to stop plea bargains and increase the number of crimes that require the death penalty - and his new tracking system to discipline judges who do not impose maximum sentences in all cases?
Get used to it.  This is the country you are in, and you're in the minority.
Of course a friend in Boston, part of the email distribution didn't agree:
Paragraph one, c'mon!  an old recycled propaganda trick of the powerfulblame the victim. Whaddya expect from the vipers' nest?
'...you have to admire Bush..."  No, I don't have to and never will.  You can be as ironic as you want, but be sure I don't and won't ever admire that lying liar, nor did I the Don, so malignantly portrayed by Brando.  The irony, if you ask me, is that you site him as any representative of the "real world."  Ruthless, yes.  Inevitable, hell no.
Get used to it!!???? Give me an effen break!  If you put an frog in warm water in a pot and put the pot on the fire and heat the water, the frog will boil to death, right?  Put the frog into a pot of boiling water and he will jump out.  Or as my mother used to say, you can get used to hanging if you hang long enough.
I bumped into [an old friend of ours] last summer.  She's worked in the Justice Department during most of the Clinton years, and is still a DC attorney.  She said that Ashcroft's micromanagement of hirings in the department is truly terrifying.
Since when is being in the minority a reason to lie down with dogs?
I wrote back:
Irony aside, the view from the Boston area may be a bit narrow.  As is the view from liberal Hollywood. 

I listen to talk radio all over the place, and maybe you don't hear what's out there - comments that maybe it would be best if Joe Wilson's wife were in fact bumped off, and maybe it would be a good thing if CNN, ABC, NBC and MSNBC, CBS the New York Times, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times were shut down because they are really agencies of the enemies of America.  One caller suggested that Colin Powell be arrested for treason and the State Department be abolished - close the embassies and have anyone who has an issue with America see Rumsfeld at Defense. 

I recommend you check out www.newsmax.com or http://www.lucianne.com/ or http://www.rushlimbaugh.com/home/today.guest.html and get a feel for what is going on between here and Boston, in the middle of the country.  For two years folks have been told there are millions of people in the world who are out to get us and we all should be very afraid, and that Bill Clinton and his wife made all this so, and that the Jewish, liberal New York media is out to undermine America and eat America's children or whatever.  They've been told and now believe that UN is our enemy, and France in particular is our enemy - you know, those folks who think they know so much about how to live and eat that crappy food and sneer. 

There is, in reaction, deep and serious anger - and folks are encouraged to understand the way to deal with such a world is to hit back hard.  And the liberals and Democrats (same thing) are wimps who are too afraid to fight our enemies to the death. 

What else is out there?  David Limbaugh, Rush's brother, has a new book out explaining the media, left-wing conspiracy to destroy Christianity, the religion of this country - Christians are being hounded, just like what the Nazi folks did to the Jews.  And read the readers comments - the "threads" - on http://www.lucianne.com/ where folks are talking about talking up arms, pulling out their guns, and taking care of those of us out to destroy America.  Of course they laugh because liberals don't have guns as they misread the Second Amendment and favor "gun control."

Yeah, you may say these are the blood-thirsty lunatics of some fringe.  Look at the ratings for talk radio shows.  Consider Fox News - and read transcripts of what is said.  One fellow in one of the "Lucianne" threads said get your gun - this is civil war. 

The polarization is real, and getting more acute every day.

Read Ann Coulter's latest best-selling book Treason where she says any Democrat and any liberal is guilty of just that - of treason.  And she says Joe McCarthy was a true American hero.  Read Laura Ingram.  For every book by Franken or Michael Moore or Joe Conason or Eric Alterman there is the book on the other side.  Fox News has twice the viewers of the other news-talk outlets because they tell people they are abused, that Clinton is the cause, and folks like you and me are out to get them.  We don't respect them.  And they say it's time to stop tolerating such abuse.  They're telling us to shut up - as I said here - September 1, 2003 Opinion a few weeks ago.

The current administration had led us to this.  And it was easy.  Assert these things: 1.) This country is not a community.  2,) The world is not a community.  3.) You are with us or against us.  Period.  Don't agree?  You are the enemy. 

And this is where all that leads, to the anti-Boston, to the heartland of the country.

Oh yeah, almost forget - throw in a few words about the virtues of "personal responsibility" and how folks who think we should work together for the overall good of things are whiners and losers - and then you can de-fund welfare, schools, medical coverage and all the rest... folks should take more personal responsibility and stop whining.  I kind of like what Brit Hume said on Fox News the other night - "Statistically speaking, U.S. soldiers have less of a chance of dying from all causes in Iraq than citizens have of being murdered in California which is roughly the same geographical size." - telling the families of the dead soldiers to knock it off.  No one likes whiners.

Wilson's wife gets worked over - a warning to anyone who says what shouldn't be said, even if it is true.  Rush makes his racist comments and folks rally around him.  In Rochester, where I used to live, the local talk radio guy (WHAM-AM) calls the current mayor, a black man, a monkey, and then calls him an orangutan.  He's fired - and the letters pour in to the Democrat and Chronicle defending him. 

The anger and fear are deep, and very wide.  Dark skinned folks are the enemy.  Arabs are the enemy.  The French are the enemy.  Teddy Kennedy is the enemy.  They're all out to get us, one way or the other.

Hey, I see things coming to a head here.

No, I may be sarcastic but I'm not about to lie down with the dogs, as you put it.  But this might not be the country where I want to live.  And I don't see how you and I and Howard Dean are going to make this country into one where we all feel we're all in this together and we should help each others out and fix things.  At least half the country says no to that - as it sounds like damned communist crap to them.

So, any suggestions?

Yeah, I remember [our friend] and miss her.  Say hi.  And why don't you suggest she write something for my magazine, and maybe you should.  Topics?  Do you think we can ever get back to this being a "cooperative" country?  Or are we just too much rugged, competitive individualists at the core - out to reward our friends and screw our enemies, grab all that we can and let the poor and unlucky die?

I am waiting for what the two of you might write.
Other related news:
The California recall news is covered in October 5, 2003 Odd and Ends with the problems with of Arnold Shwarzenegger, his "groping" and admiration for Hitler and all that sort of thing.  A bad weekend for the "conservative" standard bearer out here. 
This last week was hard on all the folks in power.  As above, David Kay reports no weapons of mass destruction seem to be anywhere he looks in Iraq, so the key reason for immediate pre-emptive war of conquest in Iraq has been undermined.  And someone in the administration may have broken the law and really hurt our intelligence operations out of a need for revenge and intimidation, as Wilsons wife was "outed." 
And there is Rush Limbaugh.  Rush has forty million fans in America and is carried by six hundred and fifty radio stations - the single most popular commentator on radio here.  The voice of angry conservatism.  Not only was he forced to resign a position he had as a commentator on a national football television show, when he implied black quarterbacks were getting special treatment because they were black, subtly suggesting that they may be inferior and not up to the leadership and strategy involved, it also seems a drug investigation indicates he was illegally buying massive amounts of prescription pain medication (OxyContin and others) for the last four years - some sort of addiction.  All that ranting over the years about evil druggies with no self-control and no sense of personal responsibility?   Oops. 
An attorney friend in Rochester send this along
RE: Drug-Taking, Breast-Groping, Nazi-Loving, Racists
Thats the epithet I used this morning on my conservative and Republican friends at the Y, in reference to those two stalwarts of the Right, Arnold and Rush.
It's been a good two weeks on the ideological warfront.  Here in Rochester our own local Right Wing Talk show host, Bob Lonsbury, was fired from WHAM the biggest local AM station, owned by Clear Channel (aren't they all?).  Two weeks ago Lonsbury referred to Rochester's mayor, a Black man who is running for County Executive, as a monkey and an orangutan. He was suspended by the station and there was a public outcry against him (along with a small outcry in favor).  Local Clergy were particularly vocal.  Initially it looked like he was going to get away with sensitivity training and a week or two off.  But he couldn't keep his mouth shut.  On his own web site he attacked the local Bishop; a stupid thing to do in an overwhelmingly Catholic area.  Earlier this week he was fired. Then the Rush/Donavan McNabb comment (which does not sit well with an upstate NY audience of Syracuse fans), follow by the news of that he spends much of his $32M annual income on hillbilly heroine. Nice.
Now it's Arnold and his fondness for fondling breast and his desire to have crowds of unquestioning followers shouting his name.
So enjoy yourself this weekend. Find a Republican and whisper in his ear:
W.M.D.   Where they be?
Ah, but as I said, I hopped on the Democrat and Chronicle site and scanned all the letters in defense of Bob Lonsbury.  He's fired - and the letters pour defending him.  And Arnold will easily win Tuesday's election out here, in spite of how us folks up here in the Hollywood Hills vote.  
What are you going to do with the big block of folks who are frightened and angry and want a bully, their bully, to push around the dusky folk for them, and put intellectuals in the their place, and toss out those who presume to know how to run a government and worry about the poor and disenfranchised, those who they call whiners.  They also want their bully to slap down any country that disrespects us - they want their bully to mock and humiliate them.  Their bully, doing what they're too timid to try, is Arnold, or Rush, or George.
Hey, Arnold liking Hitler gets him some of their votes.  And George has a good buddy now, Silvio Berlusconi, who got one of the rare invitations to the Texas ranch last month, our Italian buddy who says Benito Mussolini wasn't such a bad guy.  Silvio Berlusconi, in spite of popular opinion in Italy, in spite of the Germans, Russians, French, Chinese and other small fry, supported our "preventative" (prophylactic?) Iraq war wholeheartedly.  You see where this is going.
Yep, some interesting items in the last few days.  But about half the country doesn't give a damn.  Dont get too smug.  These folks will fight back.
Maybe we are two separate countries now.  Well, George said there's no middle ground.  You're with him or with the other side.  "Good" versus "evil" and all that.  It seems when he said hes a "uniter" not a divider, he was only kidding.  He told us to choose sides. 

Some of us have.

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October 5, 2003

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