All the President's Lies

In recent weeks, the press and some Democrats have finally taken up a critical White House deception about Iraq and uranium. What took them so long? And what about all the other lies?

Ask any pundit why the Bushmen have had their way so easily and you will hear the story of Karl Rove's towering presence. Rove, the man half of Washington calls "Bush's brain," is one of the most formidable party bosses the city has seen since the days of towering Democratic figures like Lyndon Johnson and Jim Farley. He is an absolute master of the mechanics of party politics, a ruthless enforcer of marching orders, and an utterly audacious competitor. It is no exaggeration to say that Rove inspires fear and fealty throughout Republican ranks; his White House is by all accounts the most leakproof of the modern era.

Whether he is the über-media manipulator he's made out to be is less sure. Either way, however, it was not the residue of Rove's genius that put the Bush agenda over the top, but the utter acquiescence of America's most cherished democratic institutions--the opposition party and the free press. Bush and Rove will likely go down in history not as master propagandists but as ruthless operators in the right place at the right time: the first White House of the modern era bold enough to flout "checks and balances" altogether and charge through the bankrupt, tissue-thin lines of the Democratic party and the American news media without incurring serious consequences. When future historians comb through the muck of the Bush era, there is no telling what, if any, documentary evidence they will find (this is a crew schooled in the art of concealing its tracks), but they will surely be dumbfounded by the gap between the Bush administration's public conduct--radical in scope, aggressive in its means, beset by international opposition and by open lies, manipulations, and gaffes--and the paltry, token resistance it engendered in the domestic press and the American political establishment.

If the failure of the Democratic Party in responding to the Iraq war and the so-called war on terror has seemed especially glaring, it's only because the issues involved are so momentous that one can scarcely fail to notice the lack of dissent. But it's nothing new. The national Democratic party began retooling itself along more explicitly business-friendly, proto-Republican lines in the shadows of the Carter years, and from the start of the Reagan era onward, it has never put up serious resistance to any major Republican initiative. Neither has it cast an inquisitive eye toward any fermenting Republican scandal, from Iran-Contra to Enron to Saddam's WMDs. Apart from Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who have both called for an investigation into who leaked Valerie Plame's identity to Bob Novak, the Democrats have clucked a bit without really seeking to do anything. Just last week Bill Clinton phoned Larry King to say that all presidents make mistakes and everyone was being too hard on W. The previous Friday, Hillary Clinton had appeared on Bob Costas's HBO talk show saying the same thing. She still believed invading Iraq was the right thing to do, and she was going to reserve her judgment about the other questions surrounding Bush's conduct--until 2008, I'm guessing, unless she can be enticed to join the Democratic ticket next summer.

It's only fitting that the Clintons should come to Bush's rescue. Even during the ostensible interlude of the Clinton years, it was still the Republicans who set the social and fiscal agenda, which the president always embraced with a feigned reluctance. Most famously, he stole their welfare reform proposal and managed to get all the credit for it, which was one reason the right despised him so. A neat political trick, but it made little difference to the country: It was just eight more years of Republican rule in sheep's clothing.

At the moment the Republican party is controlled by a gang of neo-conservatives who want to build American empire by nakedly militarized means, for the express reason that there is currently no one to stop us and we ought to keep it that way. The Democrats are ruled by neoliberals who want to achieve the same imperial goals by gradualism and finesse, through systems of international trade and law dictated by U.S. corporations and the U.S. government. They are not opposed to military interventions, but they are certainly more circumspect about them than the current White House (who isn't?). So the great debate over America's new and precipitous policy of preemptive war was no debate at all. It more closely resembled a fretful lovers' tiff.

Which it was. A few weeks ago the UK magazine New Statesman featured a profile of George Soros, the billionaire currency trader who has become a vocal critic of the Bush crew. "Soros," wrote Neil Clark, "may not, as some have suggested, be a fully paid-up CIA agent." But, he continued, "that his companies and NGOs are closely wrapped up in U.S. expansionism cannot seriously be doubted. So why is he so upset with Bush? The answer is simple. Soros is angry not with Bush's aims--of extending Pax Americana and making the world safe for global capitalists like himself--but with the crass and blundering way Bush is going about it. By making U.S. ambitions so clear, the Bush gang has committed the cardinal sin of giving the game away.

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