22 March 2004

It was rather interesting watching Mr. Clarke's presentation on Sixty Minutes yesterday. At least he had the guts to admit, on camera, that a more-than-trivial part of the blame for 9/11 goes on his shoulders. (That's something I don't ever expect to see an SES-level civil servant or political appointee do—it's just not in their nature. That's why Janet Reno's assumption of responsibility for Waco stood out so much.) Regardless of his personal blameworthiness goes, though, what he really pointed out is that communications in the Administration, and probably not just this one, depend as much on whether the message that is to be passed on fits the preconceived notions of what the President's handlers think will be an acceptable conversation.

This is not unique to George III; or to Republican administrations; or to the US; or to democratic republics. It is a natural, and perhaps unavoidable, result of the desire to accrete and maintain political power in what is perceived as a zero-sum game. Whether Mr. Clarke was or was not correct, it was the duty of George III's handlers to let the actual policymaker(s) make that determination, not to censor it because it might be "unpopular." They clearly failed, whoever they actually are. One is reminded, in a rather sick sort of way, of the machinations in a typical episode of Yes, Minister: because although, as one bumper sticker I've seen recently puts it, "Regime Change Begins at Home—Replace Cheney & Rove," I have little confidence that things will be that much better under Kerry, if only because of the personality flaws inherent in the toadies who attach themselves to Presidential candidates. Remember Griffin Bell? How about Ed Meese? How about John Mitchell? And that's just the Attorney General, who as a lawyer is supposed to be an advocate by training…

Enough reality for this morning. Neeeeed coooofffffeeeeeee.