Monday, February 9, 2004

The Times Grows a Pair

In a refreshing change of pace, The New York Times comes down hard editorially on both Bush and the Republicans, hinting – perhaps – that the leader of the SCLM is finally getting back the cojones that got snapped off back in the heyday of Whitewater, Monica, and the 2000 election.

In the first case the Times takes a scornful look at the interview on Sunday’s Meet The Press:

When Americans choose a president, their most profound consideration is whether a candidate can make the wisest possible decisions when it comes to war. In the case of George W. Bush, they will not only judge whether the invasion of Iraq was the right decision, but what our president has brought away from that experience. If there were misjudgments about the nature of Iraq’s weapons programs or in the ways the administration presented that intelligence to the public, we need to know whether he recognizes them and has learned from them. Yesterday, in an interview with NBC’s Tim Russert, after a week in which it became obvious to most Americans that the justifications for the war were based on flawed intelligence, Mr. Bush offered his reflections, and they were far from reassuring. The only clarity in the president’s vision appears to be his own perfect sense of self-justification.


Some of Mr. Bush’s comments yesterday raise questions even more disturbing than the idea that senior administration members might have misled the nation about the intelligence on Iraq. The nation obviously needs a leader who is always alert to the threat of terrorism from abroad. But it cannot afford to have one who responds to the trauma of 9/11 by overreacting to the possibility of danger. In the coming campaign, Mr. Bush, who described himself as a “war president,” is going to have to show the country that he is capable of distinguishing real threats from false alarms, and has the courage to tell the nation the truth about something as profound as war. Nothing in the interview offered much hope in that direction.

Short version: Bush has not demonstrated that he has the judgement to know what’s a threat and what’s not, and that he will do anything and say anything to keep his grip on power. And if you watched the interview, you saw a man hunched over in a posture and demeanor that was shockingly reminiscent of Richard Nixon, right down to the forced chuckle when Russert brought up the AWOL issue and the missing records. To those of us of a certain age, it brings back memories of the lies, obfuscations and felonies committed in the name of “national security” when all they were doing was covering up an intense effort to re-elect a president.

In the second editorial, the Times goes after the hackers in the Senate offices who broke into the Democrats’ computer network on the Hill and sold the secrets to their allies:

Democrats were tipped off to the possible break-in when their strategy memos began appearing in conservative media, starting with The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page. When Democrats complained, the Senate sergeant-at-arms began an investigation, interviewing staff members and seizing computers. One former Republican staff member at the center of the controversy, who went on to a senior position with the Senate majority leader, Bill Frist, has announced that he is leaving Mr. Frist’s staff.

Orrin Hatch, the Utah Republican who is chairman of the Judiciary Committee, at one point said he was “mortified.” More recently, however, some Republicans have blamed Democrats for not doing more to secure their computers. It is the high-tech equivalent of a burglar saying a homeowner should have had better locks. Republicans are also trying to change the subject to whether the memos show improper contacts between civil rights groups and committee Democrats.

If this is a sign of what’s to come from the mainstream press, there is yet hope that maybe – just maybe – the tide is turning. But we must remain vigilant.