Thursday, June 02, 2005


Bob Herbert Sounds Like He Wants To Be A Drum Major

He's always been good, though usually not as consistently incandescent as Paul Krugman, whose every column is essential reading. But today, Herbert's put on his drum major uniform:

The trauma of Watergate, which brought down a president who seemed pathologically compelled to deceive, came toward the end of that extended exercise in governmental folly and deceit, Vietnam. Taken together, these two disasters, both of which shook the nation, provided a case study in how citizens should view their government: with extreme skepticism. [...] President Bush, as we know, wanted to remove Saddam Hussein through military action. With that in mind, the memo damningly explained, "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy." That's the kind of deceit that was in play as American men and women were suiting up and marching off to combat at the president's command. Mr. Bush wanted war, and he got it. Many thousands have died as a result. [...] At a press conference on Tuesday, President Bush, speaking about detainees who had complained of being abused, said they were "people that had been trained in some instances to disassemble - that means not tell the truth." Mr. Bush meant, of course, to say dissemble, which really means to deliberately mislead or conceal. Nevertheless, he knew what he was talking about. The president may have stumbled over the pronunciation, but he's proved time and again that he's a skillful practitioner of the art. The lessons of Watergate and Vietnam are that the checks and balances embedded in the national government by the founding fathers (and which the Bush administration is trying mightily to destroy) are absolutely crucial if American-style democracy is to survive, and that a truly free and unfettered press (which the Bush administration is trying mightily to intimidate) is as important now as it's ever been. There you have it in a nutshell. Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, drunk with power and insufficiently restrained, took the nation on hair-raising journeys that were as unnecessary as they were destructive. Now, in the first years of the 21st century, George W. Bush is doing the same. Congress and an aggressive press ultimately played crucial roles in bringing the truth about Vietnam and Watergate to light. A similar challenge exists today. We'll see how it plays out.
And if you're wondering what this "drum major" business is that I'm talking about, Charles has explained it here.

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