Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Ah, the Blame Game. You know the Right’s in trouble when all that’s left in their arsenal is “blame Clinton.” This has been the fool’s chorus ever since Mr. Bush took office, but now the whole Republican party is singing along. Last week, when it became obvious the Democrats were not going to drop their investigation of sexed-up intelligence on WMD, the call from conservative quarters was “blame Clinton!” The ubiquitous David Brooks quoted a Clinton staffer as saying: "The U.S. Intelligence Community's belief toward the end of the Clinton administration [was] that Iraq had reconstituted its nuclear weapons program and was close to acquiring nuclear weapons." So, if you have a problem with the war in Iraq, or the nearly 2,050 US soldiers dead, the over 15,000 wounded, or the nearly $220 billion spent there so far, blame Clinton.

The problem is, whatever Clinton or his staffers may have believed, they did not spin intelligence or create it out of whole cloth for the sole purpose of starting an unnecessary and costly war with no thought as to an exit strategy. Nor did Clinton or his staffers seek to revenge themselves on their critics by revealing any of their critics’ wives’ undercover status. Sorry, but for these and other related crimes, the blame falls squarely on Mr. Bush and his own band of brothers. Of course, we’ve known all along that W has trouble taking the blame. When, during the last of the presidential debates with John Kerry, he was asked to “give three instances in which you came to realize you had made a wrong decision” he could not come up with even one.

The desperation of the “blame Clinton” defense is obvious. The surprising thing is that, for the moment at least, it has even eclipsed the “blame the liberal media” defense favored by the Right. Funny, we bandy about the L-word without really thinking what it means to live in what is accurately called a “liberal democratic society.” Traditional liberalism argues that defense of individual liberty and private property are the purposes of government. One of its chief tenets is the right of dissent. It is utterly opposed to totalitarian and collectivist ideologies like communism. If you look at it this way, all media in a democracy, if true to the purpose of the media, should be liberal.

The problem with our supposedly liberal media is that it has been so thoroughly infected by politics. Of course the press is by nature political—not because it is mired in a particular ideology, but because it is moored to the liberal ideal, and thus threatens to expose the pretense, hypocrisy, and decadence of politics with truth-telling, which, when a nation is governed by dogma, is a form of dissent. I would actually like to be able to blame the press for Bush’s problems, but unfortunately, our press is beholden to the same interests as our politicians. No, this time the blame is entirely Bush’s own to bear.

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