The Downing Street memo story is beginning to gain traction.
The war is going horribly wrong.
Bush failed to sell his plan to dismantle Social Security.
His polls just keep getting worse.
What can the Bush Leaguers do?
Find Osama, of course.
The director of the CIA [told Time magazine] he has an "excellent idea" where Osama bin Laden is hiding...
Of course you have to read the fine print.
...but that the United States' respect for sovereign nations makes it more difficult to capture the al-Qaida chief.
In other words, we know where bin Laden is but we can't go get him because that would either offend an ally or start another war we can't win.
But nevermind that. We know where he is which means we're this close to hunting him down at last!
How fast will the Washington press corps drop everything to go chasing after this red herring?
If this trick doesn't work and the press stays focused on Bush's failures, how soon before we have another terror alert?
Haven't had one of those in a long time.
Karl Rove didn't invent this trick. Presidents have been using "National Security" to try to distract the media and voters from their domestic problems for a long time. Johnson did it, Nixon did it. Nixon seemed to be out of the country more than he was home during the Watergate crisis, making visits to any place he could think to go to where he could plausibly pretend to be dealing with issues of National Security.
When he couldn't go himself, he sent Kissenger.
Carter did it. He latched on to the hostage crisis like a liferaft and wouldn't let go until it drifted with him to a desert island and marooned him there.
Reagan did it, although he didn't need to do it that often because his genius was in pretending that problems weren't problems and that failures were just expected missteps on the sure path to progress and success and then convince everybody to go along. But he did it, and the media kept kicking itself for letting him get away with it.
Or they said they kicked themselves.
The first Bush did it when he could but his term in office was subsumed into two real issues of National Security, the end of the Cold War and the war in Kuwait. When he needed foreign policy issues to distract people from his problems at home late in his term, people were just plain too worn out to look beyond the borders.
He was genuinely puzzled during the election when nobody seemed to care about his accomplisments overseas. He grew testy about it too. Perot and Clinton talked nonstop about the economy while Bush peevishly insisted on his record as Commander in Chief and the President on hand to accept the Soviet surrender at the end of the Cold War.
When Bill Clinton went after al Qaida in the midst of the Impeachment charade, the media reacted with guffaws. Look at Slick Willy desperately trying to wag the dog, they said.
They weren't wrong to be cynical, although it would have been helpful if more of them could have separated in their minds what was happening in the real world from what happened in the movie they had all just seen. (Actually, I suspect few of them saw the movie. Going to the movies would mean having to pass up a party some night. They knew the movie from talking about it at the parties.) There wasn't anything so special about Bill Clinton that should have made journalists automatically think he was different from the five Presidents who came before him.
One of Clinton's failures was not to persist in his course, in spite of the media's cynicism. It was his job to convince them that al Qaida was a serious threat that had to be dealt with, even if dealing with it looked like political opportunism.
So here is the question that drives Democrats and Liberals insane.
How did George W. Bush, of all people, come to be the first President since John Kennedy to earn an exemption from the media's natural cynicism and skepticism?
Why this guy?
How is it that to point it out when the Bush Leaguers engage in the most blatant acts of political opportunism is to be dismissed as just a raving Bush hater?
How is that to simply ask if a President who came to office by hook and by crook might have stolen votes last time out is to mark yourself as someone in need of a tinfoil hat?
How is it that to raise the question of whether or not a President might have lied us into a war, let alone wave the proof that he did in the media's faces, is to get a dismissive That is so over or even to be told that you're just playing make-believe, real grown-ups don't bother with such fun and games?
Why this guy?
As Mark Felt---Deep Throat---said of Nixon and his henchmen, "The truth is, these are not very bright guys."
Bush and his gang are not even as smart as Nixon and his. Everything they've done to manipulate the media and public opinion, to mow down their enemies and keep their "friends" in line, has been unoriginal, unimaginative, obvious, childish, and not at all smart, only sly. Their major virtue, so to speak, has been their brazenness.
Karl Rove isn't a genius. He's just persistent and shameless.
So what's going on?
Why has it been so easy for them to get away with it?
There isn't a good answer to this, except luck. George Bush happened to come along at the moment when the Washington press corps was at its most cowardly, lazy, corrupt, and just plain dumb. Robert Parry:
Observing the behavior of the national news media over the past three years has been like watching incompetent players in the mystery game "Clue" as they visit all the rooms and ask about all the suspects and weapons, but still insist on guessing at combinations that are transparently incorrect.