Monday, October 24, 2005

On This Tail There Hangs a Tale

[[P O L I T I C S]] * So, let’s see if I’ve got this straight: Today, just one day before Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the hard-nosed special prosecutor investigating the CIA leak scandal (aka “Plamegate”), is scheduled to convene a grand jury and present his case for indictments--possibly of White House heavyweights such as Bush political adviser Karl Rove and vice-presidential chief of staff I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby--and at the same time as George W. Bush’s latest Supreme Court nominee, Harriet Miers, looks to be flaming out as a result of right-wing opposition, the prez suddenly tries to change the subject by announcing his choice of Ben Bernanke to replace the retiring Alan Greenspan as chairman of the Federal Reserve. Nothing against Bernanke--even though he’s another Bush crony, currently chairman of the U.S. President’s Council of Economic Advisers--but doesn’t this sound again like another “wag the dog” scheme?

Every time Bush runs into trouble, it seems, he manages to come up with some distraction for the press, some contrivance designed to turn the gunsights away from any of his vital parts or partisans. Back in 2002, for instance, the prez announced that he was creating a brand-new Department of Homeland Security (an idea he had originally opposed) on the very day that FBI agent Coleen Rowley began testifying before Congress about how personnel at the FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C., had mishandled information provided to them by field agents in Minneapolis regarding Zacarias Moussaoui, suspected of being involved in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York City and the nation’s capital. It was in 2002, as well, that the Republican administration--beleaguered by revelations concerning Bush’s suspiciously opportune sale of stock in Harken Energy back in the ’80s--amped up its criticism of Saddam Hussein and began laying the groundwork for the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, booting the Harken story from newspaper headlines. More recently, in the midst of growing criticism of his administration’s lackadaisical response to Hurricane Katrina’s devastation along America’s Gulf Coast, the prez rushed to nominate John G. Roberts Jr. to replace the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist on the U.S. Supreme Court. (As I wrote at the time, if Bush had moved even half as fast to help the tens of thousands of hurricane victims as he did to replace just one man, his job approval ratings wouldn’t have gone into the toilet, where they’ve remained ever since.) The Miers nomination was conveniently timed, too, coming earlier this month, just as high-level Republican scandals were closing in like storm clouds around the White House and Congress.

It’s becoming accepted wisdom of late that the American media, formerly buffaloed by Bush’s phony, good ol’ boy persona and wobbly claims of candor, kept in line by promised scoops or threats of retribution from GOP enforcers, and all too willing to swallow administration propaganda (can you hear your critics baying, Judy Miller?) have finally relocated their backbones and begun to question the White House’s pronouncements and policies--exactly as they should have been doing for the last five years. If that’s true, then the Bernanke announcement will be seen for the transparent diversionary tactic that it is, and the media won’t let up on their history-making coverage this week of the CIA leak scandal--even though Bush’s army of practiced spinners will be appearing on every TV screen in Christendom, hoping to convince a gullible public that this potentially treasonous affair is really nothing more than a “technicality,” certainly no worse than Martha Stewart’s insider trading. (Unfortunately for those spinners, the prez is already on record as calling Plamegate “very serious.”) And if the U.S. press really has rediscovered its mission to report the news without fear or favor, then it won’t be distracted, either, from covering the impending, tragic news of the 2,000th military fatality in Iraq. This is a week in which the American news media have a chance either to redeem themselves ... or else prove that they’re really the lapdogs Bush has been trying to make of them.

FOLLOW-UP: The Carpetbagger Report’s Steve Benen notes the mention, in a Fred Barnes column in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal, that Bush had settled on picking Ben Bernanke for the Fed job last week, “though the actual nomination was not to be announced until later this month or early November.” However, the nomination’s timing was accelerated. “Hmm,” writes Benen, “the White House had planned to wait on Bernanke, but pushed the nomination up. I wonder what other story they were hoping to distract attention from? It’s not like there’s anything else of political importance in the news, right? Oh wait…

READ MORE:Bushies Feeling the Boss’ Wrath: Prez’s Anger Growing in Hard Times,” by Thomas M. DeFrank (New York Daily News); “How Scary Is This?” by Bob Herbert (The New York Times); “Bush Taps White House CEA Chief Ben Bernanke to Succeed Greenspan,” by Steve Soto (The Left Coaster); “A Good Choice: What Can Ben Bernanke Bring to the ‘Second Most Powerful Job In The World?’” by Susanna Schrobsdorff (Newsweek); “Revenge of the Nerds: From Roberts to Bernanke, It’s All Greek to Bush,” by Bruce Reed (Slate).

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