Should We Be Very Afraid?
(Warning - tin foil hat recommended before reading.)
I’m highly skeptical of all anonymous “leaks” out of the WH. Regardless of who is reporting the “leak.” While the Bush WH is particularly skilled at planting leaks, a chill ran down my spine as Leon Panetta freely admitted (with obvious pride) in a recent NewsHour interview that the Clinton WH did the same thing. Bu$hCo may have more willing collaborators like Miller, Woodward, et al., the list of those that cannot be played may be very short. For example, Pincus has his problems in the Wen Ho Lee case and is under court order to disclose his source in the suit. As such, if I must err, I choose to err on the side of overestimating Rove’s skill at planting disinformation that serves his purposes. He played liberals like a fiddle in l’affaire Lott (and if he had been the stage manager of the Plame leak, Fitzgerald’s task may have been more difficult and less successful). Anonymous WH leaks that reinforce the biases, prejudices and expectations of liberals could be IEDs and handled accordingly.
That’s why the recent “leaks” about the mental stability of Bush give me pause. It began with the Enquirer’s report a few weeks ago that he was drinking again. The Enquirer is better than many other publications at sourcing and therefore, I don’t doubt that they had adequate confirmation for publication and may or may not be true. It heats up this week with Seymour Hersh’s report that Bush is living in “the gray world of religious idealism where he wants to be anyway” and Rove and Cheney are running the WH. Who would be less questioned by liberals than Sy? And would not these reports be swallowed without question by liberal political junkies that detect of late something weird about Bush’s jaw? Then there’s Dowd's fanciful take in The Autumn of the Patriarchy.
Yet, Bush still appears in public and is as (in)capable as ever at reading a speech. As passionate about everything he’s been passionate about since he surfaced on the national stage. Yes, he’s still an ignorant dim bulb. It’s entirely possible that he never stopped hitting the bottle (much easier to mask for binge drinkers which Bush appears to have been). So, how do we square these reports with what we can see? Or with the MSM (buyer beware) that Bush has put Cheney in the doghouse and ticked off at Rove?
The “religious idealism” would play well with his base, but they’re still with him. To the other 70% of the country, this report makes him look like a nutcase. Therefore, we can easily reject that this would be something the WH put out to enhance Bush’s reputation. Yet, does that necessarily mean that it’s a real, and not manufactured, leak?
My intuitive sense of Bush is that he was fully engaged on all the little plots and nefarious doings of his administration until at least the summer of 2003. My guess is that as the Plame investigation heated up, Bush easily accepted that he needed to stay “out of the loop” which he was by election day 2004. As a lifelong slacker, he wouldn’t have needed much convincing to remain “out of the loop” and simply focus on his passions like getting rid of what little remains of the new deal and more war (over learning the lesson of Bush I who ended the war way too soon).
I don’t even doubt that Rove and Cheney would enjoy exercising power without George in the way or that they would not encourage him to drink or retreat into “gray world of religious idealism.” If so, wouldn’t they take care to make sure this didn’t leak? Perhaps I overestimate their ability to control who sees what and who may talk to the press. In that case, we have a nutcase with the power to run the country but is AWOL. Is that news? Or merely confirmation of what we have been living with for five years?
Would it be better if Bush were sober, engaged and not filled with visions of his Lord? Not really. Would it be different? Not likely. Therefore, perhaps these reports indicate nothing more than Cheney and Rove not expending as much energy keeping the curtains drawn on the real GWB and they are as surprised as anyone that it was so easy for some to peak and leak. OTOH, what if this is another manufactured leak?
But why? Having discredited CBS, WAPO and the NYT (with the collateral damage to some of their favorite shills), perhaps they have turned their attention to Hersh and the Enquirer. And when the time is right (translation, if the media and liberals bite enough), they will credibly dispute the claims and discredit Sy and the Enquirer. Maybe not a big deal, but it might divert attention enough to blunt the effects of the GOP scandals and get them through another election cycle (one that they can’t afford to lose).
But what if the reports are true (or true enough) and Cheney and Rove planted them. Want the country to believe that Bush has gone around the bend? In a rational world, it would not be plausible that men with approval ratings way below the pathetic standing of GWB could execute a successful power grab. But do we live in that rational world? Was it difficult in 1974 to get the country to rally around a man that had never been elected to national office? Rally around a doofus that at best, had screwed up before and on 9/11? Rally around a war that they didn’t want? If GWB is gaga, how hard would it be for the country to rally around Cheney and Rove? (Not people like us, but all those mushy middlers that respond with unthinking patriotism in times of stress.) They can sell it as they did Nixon’s pardon in 1974 as better than a Constitutional crisis that would rock the foundations of the country. And if that’s not scary enough for you, imagine for a moment what Cheney could do if he were legitimately sitting behind the desk in the Oval Office.
So, we might want to ignore these early madness of King George stories. If more and more surface and gain steam before the mid-term elections and any indictments of Cheney and Rove, be very afraid.
(You may now remove your hat and return to the non-paranoid TLC features.)