I think we should henceforth enshrine March 22 as “Bullshit Day”, the day on which members of the Bush administration fanned out across the media landscape, saying anything and everything they could think of to try to blunt the impact of Richard Clarke’s charges that Bush ignored the threat of terrorism in the months leading up to 9/11, and was obsessed with constructing false-to-fact links to Saddam Hussein after the attacks.
There’s a nice roundup of yesterday’s hijinks in the Washington Post: White House counters ex-aide. And insightful analysis is available from Kevin Drum (Bush’s secret plan and Panic mode) and from Joshua Micah Marshall (A request… and Alright, I promise…). And if you prefer your bulllshit straight, no chaser, you can go right to the source of some of the best of it: Cheney to Rush: Clarke “not in the loop”.
The interesting thing here isn’t that the Bush people are hitting back hard; that was predictable. The interesting thing is the nature of the response. They’re trying to slam Clarke as an unreliable partisan. They’re claiming this is just politics as usual. They’re hoping they can get Joe Sixpack disgusted enough from campaign-season name-calling to tune the whole thing out; affter all, that worked pretty well on the Valerie Plame thing.
They’re not actually refuting Clarke’s charges. Because they can’t. They’re too well-documented, too consistent with other things we already know. The few attempts to undercut them have been laughable. So they’re left with trying to smear the messenger.
And note that it isn’t just angry lefties like me who see their response this way. The other side essentially acknowledges that this is what they are doing. From the Washington Post article I linked to above:
Clarke’s allegations come after two weeks in which Kerry (D-Mass.) struggled for footing and the Bush campaign enjoyed what his aides believed was their best run of the year. But by Friday, a Republican official said the campaign was bracing for a tidal wave of negative publicity from Clarke’s book. The campaign’s defense strategy was that although Clarke could not be roundly refuted on the facts, enough doubt about the issue could be raised by portraying him as reckless and partisan.
You catch that? We can’t dispute the facts (that Bush ignored repeated warnings about al Qaeda in the months before 9/11, and sought to tie Saddam Hussein to the attacks afterward, even when all the experts insisted to him that where was absolutely no connection between the two), because, well, unfortunately, those facts happen to be true. So instead we’re going to take a guy who is pretty much the definition of non-partisan sobriety, who served under four presidents, Republican and Democrat alike, and whose pre-9/11 warnings and proposals for dealing with the threat of al Qaeda make him look like the most prescient person since Nostradamus; we’re going to take that guy, and make him out to be an unreliable party hack, disgruntled over having been turned down for a promotion, who as a result is trying to hurt Bush with hateful lies.
Bullshit Day! Hooray!