Topic: Couldn't be so...
Our Richelieu: Who's Minding the Store While the Boss is in Argentina?
If you follow national politics - who is doing what with policies, actions, appointments and all that sort of thing that eventually, and sometime immediately, changes our lives in some rather dramatic ways - the week just past was a series of tussles over who controlled the "big story."
Last weekend it was terrible polling numbers for the administration, and calls for apologies and resignations (Karl Rove would do). Monday the counter was to nominate a well-qualified by controversial fellow to the Supreme Court, followed Tuesday by a proposal to spend more than seven billion dollars we don't actually have at the moment to protect us all from the avian flu that may be coming to kill us all but may not get here any time soon. That was countered Tuesday afternoon by the Democrats in the senate shutting down the place, demanding some action on a promise to look into who was messing with us all with all that talk of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, hyping forged documents and ignoring the actually facts at the time, to get us into a war that might not have been necessary. And then Wednesday we learned our government runs a series of secret prisons where some people just disappear without a trace, there no record of anything, and where we practice "enhanced interrogation" - and we seem to be using the old soviet prisons to make the story even more bizarre. Add that the Office of the Vice President is working hard to make sure we don't have to follow any of that Geneva Conventions stuff.
Thursday the new polling was worse than ever, and that Libby fellow, former Chief of Staff to the Vice President, was arraigned on assorted felonies.
How bad is the new polling?
Washington Post (with ABC): Sixty percent disapprove of the president's performance, and fifty-five percent think the administration deliberately mislead country over Iraq. CBS: Fifty-seven percent disapprove of the president's performance, thirty-five percent approve (lowest ever), and only thirty-two percent think the administration is telling what they knew about the WMD facts. AP-Ipsos: Fifty-nine percent disapprove of the president's performance.
Read all about it here, here and here - or don't.
You get the idea.
What's a guy to do with all this bad news?
Leave town, fly down to Argentina for a summit to chat with other leaders. Yeah, Fidel Castro will be there, and Hugo Chavez from Venezuela, but you can look like a world leader. Castro is old and Chavez is nutty. This will play great on Fox News. Don't think about Nixon in Caracas in 1960 and his car getting stoned. This will look presidential.
Well, that didn't work out, as in Bush faces Latin fury as popularity sinks at home (Independent, UK) - your typical "you cannot run away from your problems" story - and as in Far from home, Bush can't escape political headaches (USA Today) - five questions from the press, and only one on the summit - and as in Summit protests turn violent in Argentina (AP) - pretty serious riots in the streets.
Scanning the media one sees this anti-Americanism in our own hemisphere (our "backyard" as James Monroe and his doctrine would have it) is seen with some pride on the right ("ungrateful wretches"), and some dismay on left ("we've made everyone hate us"), and general depression in the middle ("this is a mess"). One can find comment all over. Go to Technorati or Memeoradum and stomp around. You'll see.
Okay, things are not going well. And it only gets worse.
Remember Lawrence Wilkerson, the fellow who, on Wednesday, October 19, addressed the New America Foundation and said there was a cabal that was running this country - Cheney, Rumsfeld and so on - and implied the president was just out of the loop and generally clueless? (This was discussed last weekend in these pages here.) Okay, he is the former Chief of Staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, so he's grumpy. His "faction" in the first term lost out to the war-now plans-are-for-sissies idealists. He has an axe to grind. And he's grinding it, making it real sharp.
He's at it again. Thursday, November 3rd he was at it again. And Friday people were realizing just what it was he had said the day before - he said he had uncovered a "visible audit trail" tracing the practice of prisoner abuse by US soldiers directly back to Vice President Cheney's office - you know, actual documents.
He said this in an interview on NPR with Steve Inskeep (the audio is here) and since there is no transcript yet, this has been hard to quote. No one sits and tapes news shows on National Public Radio and then carefully transcribes what was said - but someone at the Washington Post seems to be paid to do that. And Dan Froomkin offers some of what was said in Another Thunderbolt from Wilkerson, posted just after noon, Eastern Time, on Friday, November 4 -
Is this a big deal? The Secretary of Defense under cover of the Vice President's office, "regardless of the President having put out this memo," began to authorize procedures that were undoubtedly illegal and created a mess for us around the world, one it will take generations to clean up, if it can be cleaned up. These directives flat-out contradicted the 2002 order from the president for the military to abide by the Geneva Conventions against torture. Or so the man says.
Who is running the country?
So far only AFP (l'Agence France-Presse has run with the story (here). The Post item was in a general media round up, not a feature.
AFP adds this detail:
Yes, the amusing parts are in bold.
It seems Uncle Dick has taken things into his own hands, sensing the president doesn't have the brains or the balls, or the experience, or even much interest in running the country.
Someone has to get things done.
Did he suggest the trip to Argentina to give the hopeless kid something to do, so the frat-boy could feel important, or pretend to be?
This is serious stuff. The word "coup" comes to mind. The former Chief of Staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell first says the war was devised and executed by a select group bypassing this rather worthless president, and now he has documents that the same group promulgated an illegal torture policy contradicting what the president said should be done, then implemented that policy behind his back. And there's a paper trail?
Many on the left aren't surprised. They never saw the president as the sharpest knife in the drawer. And they've said this sort of thing all the time - the fellow was never up to the job and something else is going on here.
But now a former State Department bigwig says this, not Michael Moore?
And Friday night, November 4, the PBS "News Hour" broadcast is quoting the guy? And there's a panel discussion? The Bush defender is saying this is no big deal - saying everyone was frustrated with the State Department and CIA and all they rest, so they set up their own equivalents, to just work around the overly cautious, negative-thinking dinosaurs that didn't think boldly about what the nation had to do, these dreadful pessimists who wanted details and worried about things that might go wrong. The fellow is not addressing whether they also had to work around the inattentive and slow-on-the-uptake president.
Well, Richelieu ran France well enough. So why not? As mentioned in these pages April 11, 2004, in Richelieu in the White House, Sidney Blumenthal was already seeing this clearly -
Ah, this then is not news, really. This is not the first time the word "cabal" has been used.
This is just when the perception moves from the world of left-side-loonies into the general conversation - not a tin-foil hat thing any longer, but something plausible, that may even have documentation.
It's not exactly "the great awakening" - but it will do.