Commentary by Pat Murphy
So long as Bush critics could be flipped
off as a cluster of wussy Democratic liberals more obsessed with politics than
patriotism, the White House was free to engineer its ruinous policies.
Congressional Republicans, after all, are
there to confirm as mere hired hands in the neocon drama to drastically alter
foreign and domestic doctrines.
Oops! Something has happened. Republicans
who’re far from being wimpy lefties are attacking the president’s policies.
Not the least of them is Sen. John McCain,
the Arizona Republican who gave grief to Bush in the 2000 election and
periodically rubs Bush the wrong way by not following the GOP script.
McCain has landed several bruising blows
on the White House. (Since Bush boasts he doesn’t read newspapers or watch TV,
but relies on "objective" staff briefings for what’s happening in the world, the
incurious president presumably just nods when aides tell him what should be
done. Aides therefore are masterminds of controversial policies.)
In this week’s Newsweek, McCain accuses
the White House of conducting the same sort of misinformation campaign about
Iraq as was conducted during the Vietnam War. What’s happening on the ground in
Iraq isn’t what the public is told, he charges.
McCain also has uttered the
heretical—global warming is real. Horrors! Bush’s "objective" advisers (a)
reject global warming studies and (b) believe industry has a laissez faire right
to poison the atmosphere.
On Thursday, the Senate will debate a
McCain bill (co-authored by Democratic Sen. Joe Lieberman) that would limit
industrial emissions. GOP defenders of pollution should provide quite a sideshow
of rhetorical contortions.
Finally, McCain’s attack on the proposed
overpriced Pentagon lease—rather than purchase—of 100 Boeing 767 refueling
tankers as a ripoff is gaining attention. A major Washington Post investigative
report on Sunday reveals names and tactics reaching all the way to the Oval
Office in what a first year criminal prosecutor could see as a conspiracy to
unnecessarily fleece taxpayers out of several billion dollars. Does anyone
foolishly believe Attorney General John Ashcroft will investigate?
Even the indisputably conservative
columnist David Brooks, senior editor of the neocon Weekly Standard magazine,
thrashed Republican supporters of the lease deal.
"If this deal goes through, it will be a
sign that all those fine young crusaders who campaign as fearless fighters
against the ways of Washington are slowly but corrosively turning into the sort
of creatures they despise," Brooks wrote Tuesday in the New York Times.
Bush’s tone-deaf, if not insolent, Defense
chief, Donald Rumsfeld, added to the White House’s image of insulting manners.
He angered the powerful Armed Services Committee chairman and indispensable Bush
ally, Sen. John Warner, by rejecting his criticism of Lt. Gen. William Boykin’s
evangelical speechifying about God vs. idol-worshipping Muslims. (Boykin’s
"idol" information isn’t even correct: in mosques, Muslims have no figures to
worship, unlike Christian churches with crucifixes and statues).
Sadly, these harsh rebukes of Bush & Co.
are coming from Republicans. Democratic leaders for their part seem clueless.