Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Differing With Unreasonable Minds in the White House

Third time I've said that. I'll probably say it three more times. See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda.
-George W. Bush in a speech given in May 2005 at Greece Athena Middle and High School in Greece, N.Y. (

Reasonable minds will differ. But what about unreasonable ones? What do they do? Deny, destroy and divert, apparently.

Tony Snow, who on a day-to-day basis is sounding more and more like Baghdad Bob threatening death to the Americans in the dying days of the Hussein regime, today responded to a House Judiciary subcommittee vote to authorize the issuing of subpoenas to White House officials over the U.S. attorney firings with the statement that Democrats had to decide if they were more interested in "a political spectacle" than finding the truth. Yahoo!/AP Link

Now, it is true that every issue has two sides. But, in the case of the Bush administration, the two sides are "ours" and the "terrorists-loving, freedom-hating, cut-and-run-advocating, family-values-killing, tax-and-spend, dividing-not-uniting weaklings."

Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), head of the House Judiciary Committee, justified the authorization of the subpoenas by arguing that the White House's offer to have members of the administration, including former White House counsel Harriet Miers and top advisor Karl Rove, talk with members of Congress in private and not under oath was not sufficient. Conyers said, "We could meet at the local pub to have that kind of conversation. But in my judgment it would not advance us toward uncovering the simple truth in this matter." CNN Link

Rep. Tom Feeney (R-FL), who sits on the House committee that authorized the subpoenas, said that he voted against the measure because he "would strongly prefer that we postpone the issuance of subpoenas until we've had a chance to get the White House, who has made an offer to comply, to review the Department of Justice documents." He went on to say, "I for one would be prepared at the proper time to vote if there was any potential that misconduct occurred." CNN Link

Again, reasonable minds can differ. Assuming Feeney is being honest, he has expressed an honest, reasonable counter-position to Conyers's argument. He acknowledged the possibility of wrongdoing but expressed a more conservative (no pun intended) approach to investigating the matter.

I may agree with Conyers, you may agree with Freeney, and most Americans may be talking about whether Sanjaya Malakar should be voted off of "American Idol." But, in any case, there is an exchange of ideas. Not at the White House, though. Tony Snow claimed that the White House did not want Rove, Miers and others testifying under oath because it would create a "media spectacle." Yahoo!/AP Link Does anyone really believe that this the reason why the White House says it will fight any subpoenas issued? This is not reasonable minds differing. This is gamesmanship, pure and simple.

What's particularly galling about the White House's position and rhetoric is that they are accusing the Democrats of acting politically in investigating members of the administration when there is no doubt that the Attorney General was less-than truthful in explaining the U.S. attorney firings to Congress, and there is real evidence that there may have been inappropriate or illegal activity in the White House regarding the dismissals and the subsequent explanations. It is a no-brainer that government (regardless of party) has an obligation to look into this mess. Put another way, the White House is crying politics to try and impede a legitimate investigation into whether or not the White House acted politically in an inappropriate way. Or, to paraphrase something Phoebe once said to Monica on "Friends," "Hello kettle? This is the White House. You're black."

Not to mention, the Republicans, when they were in power, were the Muhammad Alis of politically motivated investigations. They were "the greatest of all time." The Democrats, after taking back Congress, have focused their attention on issues like the U.S. attorney firings, the Justice Department abuses of the Patriot Act and the city dog pound-like conditions at Walter Reed Army Hospital. The Republicans under Clinton were concerned with 20-year-old land deals, travel office personnel matters and presidential sex acts, and other than Clinton not copping to getting oral sex from an intern, they came up with nothing. The Clinton investigations were all political, top to bottom.

Having witnesses and key figures in an investigation testify under oath is hardly an un-American course of action. Our open democracy depends on reasonable people making reasonable arguments. Conyers and his backers can trade points with Feeney and his compatriots, until the sides are clear and a vote is taken. While most votes fall close to party lines, there is, more often than not, defectors on both sides. The process really works, to an extent at least.

But what does Tony Snow throwing off attention-diverting, now-you-see-it-now-you-don't, we'll-say-it-three-times-and-it-will-be-true smoke bombs do for democracy? Nothing. But, unfortunately, the White House knows that by invoking some key phrases, they can gain the upper hand in a sound-bite society like ours, regardless of the facts on the ground. It doesn't matter if the facts are 100 percent against you, just say "political witch hunt," "the terrorists win," or "gay marriage," and you will gain traction with an audience too busy watching Jeff Foxworthy to find if if they're smarter than a fifth grader. I have news for you: If the American people allow the White House to escape a real investigation of the U.S. attorney firings by using smoke and mirrors, the answer to Foxworthy's question will be an unequivocal "no."