Interesting crop of stories this morning, most of them pointed to by The Smirking Chimp, about Bush’s lies on Iraqi weapons. They cover an interesting spectrum.
On the one hand is Geov Parrish’s column at Working for Change: Eying lies. Parrish cuts Bush and his supporters no slack, which won’t surprise anyone who’s read his columns in the past. The lies themselves aren’t at issue for Parrish; the more interesting question is the possible motivations of those driven to actually believe them.
On the other hand is David E. Rosenbaum, writing in the New York Times Week in Review: Bush may have exaggerated, but did he lie? I doubt that Rosenbaum is one of those who actually believes Bush; unlike those Parrish writes about who take the president’s statements at face value, Rosenbaum obviously has a more discerning judgement. It’s an interesting irony: in order for Rosenbaum to be someone who can present the best possible case for Bush’s truthfulness, he pretty much has to be informed and clever enough to recognize those statements’ essential falsity.
Which may be unfair, but that’s the nature of such Catch-22s. Anyway, in his audacity, his willingness to employ every trick in the book to obscure the underlying reality, Rosenbaum reminds me of Bill Clinton in some of his post-blue-dress statements on Monica Lewinsky, when he could both acknowledge his previous lies and at the same time minimize their significance, building clouds of confusion in the minds of uncritical listeners before slipping artfully away.
Timothy Noah in Slate is one who isn’t confused by Rosenbaum, ripping the piece in his Chatterbox column: Can Bush be both ignorant and a liar? Noah answers that question with an emphatic yes, observing that it really doesn’t matter if Bush is ignorant enough to actually believe some of the false statements he’s made on Iraqi WMDs; if those statements were the result of ignorance, then it’s a willful ignorance that offers no excuse from the charge of lying, unless one is willing to descend to the sort of sophistry exemplified by Clinton’s own “it depends on what the definitiion of ‘is’ is” arguments.
On the most fundamental level, all the above pieces are partisan arguments directed at the opposing side. Paul Krugman’s latest New York Times opinion piece, though, rises to a higher level, talking in a more general sense about the significance of Bush’s lies, and peoples’ willingness to make excuses about them: Denial and deception. Krugman’s conclusion:
But even people who aren’t partisan Republicans shy away from confronting the administration’s dishonest case for war, because they don’t want to face the implications.
After all, suppose that a politician — or a journalist — admits to himself that Mr. Bush bamboozled the nation into war. Well, launching a war on false pretenses is, to say the least, a breach of trust. So if you admit to yourself that such a thing happened, you have a moral obligation to demand accountability — and to do so in the face not only of a powerful, ruthless political machine but in the face of a country not yet ready to believe that its leaders have exploited 9/11 for political gain. It’s a scary prospect.
Yet if we can’t find people willing to take the risk — to face the truth and act on it — what will happen to our democracy?