DUSTY RHOADES: So Many Former 'Friends' Now Breaking With Bush
Former Bush campaign strategist Matthew Dowd has become the latest in a long string of former officials, former aides, and former allies to break with the Bushistas.
Dowd helped interpret polls during the 2004 election and was one of the people giving interviews on friendly media outlets claiming that John Kerry was "weak on defense" and that people "trust this president more than they trust Senator Kerry on Iraq."
But in a recent interview with The New York Times, Dowd says that even while he was making those claims on TV, he was beginning to have his doubts.
The Abu Ghraib detainee-abuse scandal deepened his misgivings, as did the disastrous federal response to Hurricane Katrina. The last straw may have been when Dowd's son Daniel was deployed to an Iraq war in which Dowd had rapidly lost faith. Now, Dowd says, he's "disappointed" by a president who he sees as more and more "secluded and bubbled in."
White House reaction was typical: The problem was with Dowd, not with the administration.
Administration mouthpieces like Communications Director Dan Bartlett and second-string press briefer Dana Perino spoke over and over of the "emotional" nature of Dowd's criticism, the "personal hardships" he's been through, including the death of another child.
Poor fellow, the narrative goes, he's just unhinged by grief -- or, as both Bartlett and Perino reiterated, he's on a "personal journey."
Well, there seem to be quite a few people who've made that "journey." Just a few examples:
n Former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill: In a book published in 2004, O'Neill asserted that, rather than being a reaction to the terrorist attacks on 9/11, the invasion of Iraq was something that had been planned from Day One of the Bush administration, when the president was demanding "find me a way to do this."
O'Neill said cabinet meetings were like "a blind man in a room full of deaf people. ... There was no discernible connection." Bush, O'Neill said, was intolerant of dissent and of anything that might call into question what "The Decider" had already made up his mind to do.
The response from the Bush camp? O'Neill was just trying to sell a book. He was "wacky." He was 'bitter." Any problems were O'Neill's, not the administration's.
n Richard A. Clarke: A counterterrorism expert who served Reagan, Bush the Elder, Clinton, and Dubbya, Clarke came out as harshly critical of Dubbya's seeming indifference pre 9/11 to the threat of terrorism in general and al-Qaeda in particular, as well as his seeming fixation on Iraq. Clarke said he felt pressured to find a connection between Saddam Hussein and 9/11, even though no credible connection existed, then or now.
White House response? Clarke was just trying to sell a book. He was an "opportunist." He was "inconsistent," because his briefings to reporters while a member of the administration weren't as critical of the administration. (Duh.) In any event, the problem was not in the administration's fight against terror; the problem was with Richard Clarke.
n David Kuo: An evangelical Christian and a former White House adviser on "faith-based" initiatives, Kuo rapidly came to realize that the administration was cynically manipulating religious people for political ends. Kuo details how White House staffers frequently referred to evangelicals as "nuts" and "goofy." They even called Pat Robertson "insane." (Well, of course, they're right about that.) Kuo's book, "Tempting Faith," details his disillusionment.
The response from the Bush Cult? Kuo's claims were "factually inaccurate" (a polite euphemism for "he's lying"). He was really a liberal. And, of course, he was just trying to sell his book. We don't have a problem, they insisted: David Kuo has the problem.
n Nebraska Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel: Originally a supporter of the 2002 resolution to authorize force in Iraq, Hagel has become one of the war's most vocal critics. He has compared the Iraq war to the one in Vietnam and called the White House "totally disconnected from reality."
White House reaction? According to Dick "Shooter" Cheney, Hagel was an "armchair quarterback." He was wrong when he said we "couldn't do Afghanistan" (an outright lie, as Hagel never said anything of the kind). Hagel's words "aren't analysis, they're just criticism." (This last, by the way, has to be one of the most bizarre responses I've ever heard.)
Well, at least he didn't have a book out. But again, to the White House, it's not Dubbya and Shooter who have a problem; it's Sen. Hagel.
But you know what? There's a line from a song by comedian Tim Wilson about things he's learned in life: "You been divorced five times," the song goes, "hell, maybe it's you." Maybe this is a lesson the Bushistas should have learned: You lose this many friends, Mr. President, maybe it's you.
Dusty Rhoades lives, writes and practices law in Carthage. His third novel, "Safe and Sound," will be released in July.
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