This week has seen two examples of President Bush trying desperately to dodge responsibility for which he clearly he clearly should have known. First, the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran said that it was the considered judgment of all 16 intelligence agencies of the United States government that Iran halted its research in to nuclear weapons in 2003. The NIE was available internally to the Administration months ago; yet the President, through press secretary Dana Perrino, insists he was not aware of it until a few days before it was made public. He claims he was only told "there was new information". The new information was four years old.
Yesterday, it was revealed that the Central Intelligence Agency destroyed videotapes of interrogations of terror suspects that quite possibly could have included torture. Again, he claimed to have no knowledge either of the tapes, or their destruction, even though they were part of the criminal case against Jose Padilla.
The "I don't recall", or "I don't know" defense is a great dodge. It suddenly becomes a matter of psychology - what might be in the President's head? - rather than a matter of evidence. It changes the nature of the debate. Since it is impossible to determine what a person might or might not remember, there is an almost automatic presumption of truth-telling on the part of the person who claims ignorance, or failed memory. Thus, we had the almost hysterically funny serial appearances of former Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez before the Senate Judiciary Committee, constantly claiming, "I don't recall".
For the Party of Personal Responsibility (for others, especially those who aren't Republicans, apparently) this is hypocrisy on a grand scale, the kind of thing that renders parody almost impossible, and satire moot. It seems we can't even have a decent discussion of policy without some part of the Bush Administration insisting that something that should have been obvious to those paying attention just wasn't available to them. "I didn't know Iran was only pursuing peaceful uses of nuclear energy" sounds good, except it is what the IAEA has been saying for years, repeatedly. "I didn't know the tapes existed" sounds good, even though their existence was part and parcel of a federal criminal case, one of the most high profile terrorism cases since the September 11 attacks.
It forces those who wish to claim that such knowledge should have been known to start searching for ways to prove that the "I don't know"/"I don't recall" dodge is a lie. What it should do is open up an entirely new line of questions. Who makes the decisions in this Administration? What is the chain of command, and how is information funneled up and down said chain? What is the general content of the President's daily security briefing from the National Security Council?
It also re-opens the "incompetence" dodge we hear so often, at least in reference to Iraq. "Iraq would have fine if they had only planned it/executed it/understood it better" is a nice way of saying "Their intentions were good; all that was flawed was the execution." Except, of course, their intentions weren't good. While I doubt the anarchy in place right now is what the Administration wanted, everyone who criticized this entire Iraq fiasco from before it began said this would be the result. No one listened, and we were told repeatedly how much planning and effort went in to it. Until it all went wrong, when we were told that not enough planning and effort went in to it. This is the beginning of this particular dodge, and the exemplar of such ducking and weaving.
One grows weary of these people. Truly. I was angry at myself for not being outraged by yesterday's revelations about the torture videos. Yet, how much outrage can one have? What other result was even possible with this Administration but that they destroyed the tapes, stonewalled for years, only to admit that they might have existed at one time, but were destroyed, despite Congressional demands to view these tapes and not to destroy them? If we had a functioning government, where the branches of government performed their duties, Bush and the rest of them would have been long gone from office, and quite probably under indictment if not convicted of all sorts of crimes years ago. Alas, the entire system is broken right now.
This is why I yearn for the elections next year. I do not believe that they will mean a new day in Washington. I do not believe that, even if some miracle were to occur and Dennis Kucinich were elected President, it would transform Washington insider-politics. Yet, any step away from the gangsters, hucksters, and paranoid schizophrenics who currently run our country is a step in the right direction. We have a long way to go, and it is a measure of just how much damage to our nation and its institutions the Bush Administration has wrought that I would welcome a Clinton Presidency because . . . at least it isn't another Bush!
Like the pundits who endlessly type all sorts of gag-inducing drivel, obsessing over haircuts and who said what in kindergarten (aren't those people just plain awful?), there is no accountability for the members of this Administration. Personal responsibility is a PR phrase, meant for the consumption of audiences who believe that poor people, people of color, and young people are too stupid, lazy, shiftless, or apathetic to do anything about how horrible their lives are. They are poor, discriminated against, and ignorant because of all the failings in their own lives, not because there are all sorts of structural barriers preventing them from becoming less poor, have equal opportunity, and actually know things.
It is a lie that people don't want impeachment. Just check this out. One of the commenters there writes, "Madam Speaker, put impeachment back on the table." Indeed. Force these people to stop dodging.