Condoleeza Rice on Meet the Press

Definitely not a treat

"Beware the Ides of March," said the soothsayer to Caesar (William Shakespeare: Julius Caesar, Act I, Scene 2).

This same advice also applied to the eve of the Ides, if you were watching The Shrub's cheerleader and apologist, Condoleeza Rice, on Meet the Press.

Sunday's edition of Meet the Press was billed as a face-off between Howard Dean and Condoleeza Rice on the Iraq war. Unfortunately, this was a serial debate rather than a face-to-face debate.

Just when you thought it couldn't get any more weird, Rice floated yet another rationale for the Iraq war:

The international community had a serious credibility problem where it came to weapons of mass destruction and the willingness to enforce tough resolutions, and what the president and the coalition did was to rescue, really, that credibility and to finally enforce the will of the international community of states that had been there for 12 years.

Forget about weapons of mass destruction. Forget about stockpiles of biological and chemical weapons. Forget about cruel dictator. Forget about spreading democracy in the Middle East. Forget about capacity for weapons of mass destruction. Now it's rescuing the United Nations from its credibility gap!

Since every reason the Bushies have advanced for invading Iraq has proved illusory, they've been hard-pressed to come up with one that stands the test of reality. Well guess what, this one doesn't wash, either!

I really would like to be happy for Condi Rice, the first black (African-American), female, national security advisor to the president of the United States. In a Republican administration, no less. I really would like to celebrate her achievement.

But I can't.

They used to call Bill Clinton "Slick Willie" because of his facility with words. And, indeed, Clinton had a prodigious skill, a skill that was also his downfall: "It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is" (William Jefferson Clinton, grand jury testimony, 1998).

Condi, as Bush apologist, demonstrates the same willingness to parse the English language to evade responsibility:

I think what the president said in his State of the Union, Tim, is that we cannot wait until it becomes imminent. It is a gathering and grave threat. We all believed that it is an urgent threat and I believe to this day that it was an urgent threat.

To be clear: Here we have the president's national security advisor trying to draw distinctions between "imminent," "gathering and grave," and "urgent" threats. As my graduate advisor used to say, that is a "distinction without a difference." The real issue is that it now seems that it was none of them! Condi Rice is too smart not to realize this, so this is just a craven ploy to distract from far more important issues, such as Why was the intelligence so wrong? and Why did the Bush administration tell us so many things that weren't so?

Condoleeza Rice

The commission investigating 9/11 wants to interview the president and, after much resistance and stonewalling, the president finally agreed to "visit" with the chairmen of the commission (not the whole commission) for one hour. Condi tried to justify that miniscule allotment of time: "The president, of course, is the president, and he does have a schedule to keep.... I would hope that they would recognize that he's president and that people would be judicious in the use of his time."

Come on, Condi! What could be more important than finding out what went wrong leading to the worst attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor? We all know the answer to that; it might interfere with his fund-raising campaign schedule.

What the Bushies always try to do is attack a straw man. For example: The Patriot Act includes some mighty fine provisions, such as making government agencies like the FBI and the CIA talk to each other. But it also has some provisions that egregiously assault our civil liberties. So what the Bushies do is pretend that critics want to repeal the whole thing, not just bad parts: "But if we're going to roll back the Partiot Act, the people of America are going to have to know that, they're taking an enormous risk that we could go back to the days when that kind of collection and sharing activity is not permitted."

Condi, we're not talking about preventing the FBI and the CIA from talking to each other! We're talking about such things as snooping through the records of which books I've checked out of the library and preventing the library from ever telling anyone — especially me — that my records have been seized.

To his credit, Howard Dean, during his segment of Meet the Press, hit the nail squarely on the head:

I think that the debate that Dr Rice and the Bush administration are setting up is exactly what the Bush administration has been doing all along. It's misstating the case and diverting attention. The truth is this is a straw debate. Everybody's going to fight terrorism hard. The question is: Has the Bush administration done a good job? And the answer is absolutely not because Iraq was a diversion.

Dean went on to say, "The significant issue in Iraq is not whether we're in there or not.... The significant issue — and this is where the president is going to rise or fall in this election — is, Did the president tell the truth?"

Well, I've made up my mind on that question.

It's one thing to lie about your sex life. It is quite another to lie about sending young men and women off to war.