Sunday, March 14, 2010

Today's Daily Double: The Butcher Is Rich Today & Leave The Half-C-Note Alone!

The Butcher On Broadway (Frank Rich) slices Turd Blossom (Karl Rove), Lizard-Breath Cheney, and their fellow defenders of treason and war crimes. Since Turd Blossom doesn't think waterboarding is illegal or torture, let's waterboard every one of the sumbitches, including Lizard-Breath. As if that wasn't outrageous enough, the Dumbos want to canonize Dutch on our Half-C-Note in place of Ulysses S. Grant. If we must name something for Dutch, let it be the first stall in every public restroom in the Land O'The Free and the Home O'The Brave. That way, with justification, we can say: "On the hole, Dutch wasn't a bad president." Otherwise, to paraphrase The Mollster, U. S. Grant, drunk on his ass, made more sense in a moment than Dutch ever made in a lifetime. If this is (fair & balanced) double-outrage, so be it.

[x NY Fishwrap]

[Vannevar Bush Hyperlink — Bracketed NumbersDirectory]
[1] The Butcher Is Rich
[2] Leave The Half-C-Note Alone

[1]Back To Directory
The New Rove-Cheney Assault On Reality
By Frank Rich

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The opening salvo, fired on Fox News during Thanksgiving week, aroused little notice: Dana Perino, the former White House press secretary, declared that “we did not have a terrorist attack on our country during President Bush’s term.” Rudy Giuliani upped the ante on ABC’s “Good Morning America” in January. “We had no domestic attacks under Bush,” he said. “We’ve had one under Obama.” (He apparently meant the Fort Hood shootings.)

Now the revisionist floodgates have opened with the simultaneous arrival of Karl Rove’s memoir and Keep America Safe, a new right-wing noise machine invented by Dick Cheney’s daughter Liz and the inevitable William Kristol. This gang’s rewriting of history knows few bounds. To hear them tell it, 9/11 was so completely Bill Clinton’s fault that it retroactively happened while he was still in office. The Bush White House is equally blameless for the post-9/11 resurgence of the Taliban, Al Qaeda and Iran. Instead it’s President Obama who is endangering America by coddling terrorists and stopping torture.

Could any of this non-reality-based shtick stick? So far the answer is No. Rove’s book and Keep America Safe could be the best political news for the White House in some time. This new eruption of misinformation and rancor vividly reminds Americans why they couldn’t wait for Bush and Cheney to leave Washington.

But the old regime’s attack squads are relentless and shameless. The Obama administration, which put the brakes on any new investigations into Bush-Cheney national security malfeasance upon taking office, will sooner or later have to strike back. Once the Bush-Cheney failures in Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran again come home to roost, as they undoubtedly and explosively will, someone will have to remind our amnesia-prone nation who really enabled America’s enemies in the run-up to 9/11 and in its aftermath.

There’s a good reason why Rove’s memoir is titled Courage and Consequence, not Truth or Consequences. Its spin is so uninhibited that even “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job!” is repackaged with an alibi. The book’s apolitical asides are as untrustworthy as its major events. For all Rove’s self-proclaimed expertise as a student of history, he writes that eight American presidents assumed office “as a result of the assassination or resignation of their predecessor.” (He’s off by only three.) After a peculiar early narrative detour to combat reports of his late adoptive father’s homosexuality, Rove burnishes his family values cred with repeated references to his own happy heterosexual domesticity. This, too, is a smoke screen: Readers learned months before the book was published that his marriage ended in divorce.

Rove’s overall thesis on the misbegotten birth of the Iraq war is a stretch even by his standards. “Would the Iraq war have occurred without W.M.D.?” he writes. “I doubt it.” He claims that Bush would have looked for other ways “to constrain” Saddam Hussein had the intelligence not revealed Iraq’s “unique threat” to America’s security. Even if you buy Rove’s predictable (and easily refuted) claims that the White House neither hyped, manipulated nor cherry-picked the intelligence, his portrait of Bush as an apostle of containment is absurd. And morally offensive in light of the carnage that followed. As Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s former chief of staff, said on MSNBC, it’s “not a very comforting thing” to tell the families of the American fallen “that if the intelligence community in the United States, on which we spend about $60 billion a year, hadn’t made this colossal failure, we probably wouldn’t have gone to war.”

Rove and his book are yesterday. Keep America Safe is on the march. Liz Cheney’s crackpot hit squad achieved instant notoriety with its viral video demanding the names of Obama Justice Department officials who had served as pro bono defense lawyers for Guantánamo Bay detainees. The video branded these government lawyers as “the Al Qaeda Seven” and juxtaposed their supposed un-American activities with a photo of Osama bin Laden. As if to underline the McCarthyism implicit in this smear campaign, the Cheney ally Marc Thiessen (one of the two former Bush speechwriters now serving as Washington Post columnists) started spreading these charges on television with a giggly, repressed hysteria uncannily reminiscent of the snide Joe McCarthy henchman Roy Cohn.

This McCarthyism has not advanced nearly so far as the original brand. Among those who have called out Keep America Safe for its indecent impugning of honorable Americans’ patriotism are Kenneth Starr, Lindsey Graham and former Bush administration lawyers in the conservative Federalist Society. When even the relentless pursuer of Monicagate is moved to call a right-wing jihad “out of bounds,” as Starr did in this case, that’s a fairly good indicator that it’s way off in crazyland.

This is hardly the only recent example of Republicans’ distancing themselves from the Cheney mob. The new conservative populist insurgency regards the Bush administration as a skunk at its Tea Parties and has no use for its costly foreign adventures. One principal Tea Party forum, the Freedom Works Web site presided over by Dick Armey, doesn’t even mention national security in a voluminous manifesto on “key issues” as far-flung as Internet taxes and asbestos lawsuit reform. Ron Paul won the straw poll at last month’s Conservative Political Action Conference after giving a speech calling the Bush doctrine of “preventive war” a euphemism for “aggressive” and “unconstitutional” war. Paul’s son, Rand, who has said he would not have voted for the Iraq invasion, is leading the polls in Kentucky’s G.O.P. Senate primary and has been endorsed by Sarah Palin.

In this spectrum, the Keep America Safe crowd is a fringe. But it still must be challenged. As we’ve learned the hard way, little fictions, whether about “death panels” or “uranium from Africa,” can grow mighty fast in the 24/7 media echo chamber. Liz Cheney’s unsupportable charges are not quarantined in the Murdoch empire. Her chummy off-camera relationship with a trio of network news stars, reported last week by Joe Hagan in New York magazine, helps explain her rise in the so-called mainstream media. For that matter, Thiessen was challenged more thoroughly in an interview by Jon Stewart on “The Daily Show” on Tuesday than he has been by any representative of non-fake television news.

What could yet give some traction to the Keep America Safe revisionism is the backdrop against which it is unfolding: an Iraq election with an uncertain and possibly tumultuous outcome; the escalation of the war in Afghanistan; and an increasingly cavalier Iran. If any of these national security theaters goes south, those in the Rove-Cheney cohort will claim vindication in their campaign to pin their own failings on their successors.

Obama may well make — or is already making — his own mistakes. And he will bear responsibility for them. But they must be seen in the context of the larger narrative that the revisionists are now working so hard to obscure. The most devastating terrorist attack on American soil did happen during Bush’s term, after the White House repeatedly ignored what the former C.I.A. director, George Tenet, called the “blinking red” alarms before 9/11. It was the Bush defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, who lost bin Laden in Tora Bora, not the Obama Justice Department appointees vilified by Keep America Safe. It was Bush and Cheney, with the aid of Rove’s propaganda campaign, who promoted sketchy and often suspect intelligence about Saddam’s imminent “mushroom clouds.” The ensuing Iraq war allowed those who did attack us on 9/11 to regroup in Afghanistan and beyond — and emboldened Iran, an adversary with an actual nuclear program.

The Iran piece of the back story doesn’t end there. As The Times reported last weekend, Dick Cheney’s former company, Halliburton, kept doing business with Tehran through foreign subsidies until 2007, even as the Bush administration showered it with $27 billion in federal contracts, including a no-bid contract to restore oil production in Iraq. It was also the Bush administration that courted, lionized and catered to Ahmed Chalabi, the Machiavellian Iraqi who lobbied for the Iraq war, supplied some of the more egregious “intelligence” on Saddam’s W.M.D. used to sell it, and has ever since flaunted his dual loyalty to Iran.

Last month, no less reliable a source than Gen. Ray Odierno, the senior American commander in Iraq, warned that Chalabi was essentially functioning as an open Iranian agent on the eve of Iraq’s election, meeting with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and other Iranian officials to facilitate Iran’s influence over Iraq after the voting. (Dexter Filkins of The Times reported on Chalabi’s ties to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2006.) As the vote counting began last week, fears grew that he could be the monkey wrench who corrupts the entire process. It’s no surprise that Chalabi, so beloved by Bush that he appeared as an honored guest at the 2004 State of the Union, receives not a single mention in Rove’s memoir.

If we are really to keep America safe, it’s essential we remember exactly which American politicians empowered Iran, Al Qaeda and the Taliban from 2001 to 2008, and why. History will be repeated not only if we forget it, but also if we let it be rewritten by those whose ideological zealotry and boneheaded decisions have made America less safe to this day. Ω

[Frank Rich is an op-ed columnist for The New York Times who writes a weekly 1500-word essay on the intersection of culture and news. Rich has been at the paper since 1980. His columns and articles for the Week in Review, the Arts & Leisure section and the Magazine draw from his background as a theater critic (known as "The Butcher On Broadway") and observer of art, entertainment and politics. Before joining The Times, Rich was a film critic at Time magazine, the New York Post, and New Times magazine. He was a founding editor of the Richmond (Va.) Mercury, a weekly newspaper, in the early 1970s. Rich is the author of a childhood memoir, Ghost Light (2000), a collection of drama reviews, Hot Seat: Theater Criticism for The New York Times, 1980-1993 (1998), and The Theatre Art of Boris Aronson (with Lisa Aronson, 1987). Rich is a graduate of the Washington, DC public schools. He earned a BA degree in American History and Literature from Harvard College in 1971.]
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Who’s Buried In The History Books?
By Sean Wilentz

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Ronald Reagan deserves posterity’s honor, and so it makes sense that the capital’s airport and a major building there are named for him. But the proposal to substitute his image for that of Ulysses S. Grant on the $50 bill is a travesty that would dishonor the nation’s bedrock principles of union, freedom and equality — and damage its historical identity. Although slandered since his death, Grant, as general and as president, stood second only to Abraham Lincoln as the vindicator of those principles in the Civil War era.

Born to humble circumstances, Grant endured personal setbacks and terrible poverty to become the indispensable general of the Union Army. Although not himself an abolitionist, he recognized from the very start that the Civil War would cause, as he wrote, “the doom of slavery.” Above all, he despised the Southern secessionists as traitors who would destroy democratic republican government, of which, Lincoln said in his first inaugural, there was no “better or equal hope in the world.”

When one Union general after another proved unequal to the task of leading the army, Lincoln personally elevated Grant, who, with William Tecumseh Sherman and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, devised the strategy of “hard war” to defeat the slaveholders’ Confederacy. “I cannot spare this man,” Lincoln was reported to have said of Grant after the bloody Battle of Shiloh in 1862. “He fights.”

Had his wife not declined to go to Ford’s Theater the night of April 14, 1865, Grant might well have been killed himself. With Lincoln’s assassination, Grant was left as the greatest Union hero of the Civil War. He chafed under the neo-Confederate presidency of Lincoln’s successor, Andrew Johnson, won the Republican presidential nomination in 1868 almost by acclamation and was elected twice — the only president to serve two successive full terms between Andrew Jackson and Woodrow Wilson.

As president, Grant was determined to achieve national reconciliation, but on the terms of the victorious North, not the defeated Confederates. He fought hard and successfully for ratification of the 15th Amendment, banning disenfranchisement on account of race, color or previous condition of servitude. When recalcitrant Southern whites fought back under the white hoods and robes of the Ku Klux Klan, murdering and terrorizing blacks and their political supporters, Grant secured legislation that empowered him to unleash federal force. By 1872, the Klan was effectively dead.

For Grant, Reconstruction always remained of paramount importance, and he remained steadfast, even when members of his own party turned their backs on the former slaves. After white supremacists slaughtered blacks and Republicans in Louisiana in 1873 and attempted a coup the following year, Grant took swift and forceful action to restore order and legitimate government. With the political tide running heavily against him, Grant still managed to see through to enactment the Civil Rights Act of 1875, which prohibited discrimination according to race in all public accommodations.

Grant did not confine his reformism to expanding and protecting the rights of the freed slaves. Disgusted at the inhumanity of the nation’s Indian policies, he called for “the proper treatment of the original occupants of this land,” and directed efforts to provide federal aid for food, clothing and schooling for the Indians as well as protection from violence. He also took strong and principled stands in favor of education reform and the separation of church and state.

Grant’s presidency had its failures and blemishes. On the advice of his counselors, Grant appointed men to the Supreme Court who wound up gutting much of the legislation he himself championed. This included the 1875 civil rights law, which the court declared unconstitutional in 1883.

Certainly, Grant’s administration was tainted by oft-remembered corruption scandals. But Grant was never seriously implicated in any of them, although emboldened Democrats and disloyal Republicans, with the help of a sensationalist press, did their best to make the president appear the villain. (Grant ill-advisedly decided to present a stoic public face instead of fighting back.)

In reality, what fueled the personal defamation of Grant was contempt for his Reconstruction policies, which supposedly sacrificed a prostrate South, as one critic put it, “on the altar of Radicalism.” That he accomplished as much for freed slaves as he did within the constitutional limits of the presidency was remarkable. Without question, his was the most impressive record on civil rights and equality of any president from Lincoln to Lyndon B. Johnson.

After Grant left the presidency in 1877, he was widely hailed as the most famous and admired living American, his alleged transgressions overcome by a fabulously successful two-year world tour. He was still beloved at his death in 1885 — a reverence embodied by his monumental tomb in Manhattan, overlooking the Hudson.

But Grant came in for decades of disgraceful posthumous attacks that tore his reputation into tatters. Around 1900, pro-Confederate Southern historians began rewriting the history of the Civil War and cast Grant as a “butcher” during the conflict and a corrupt and vindictive tyrant during his presidency. And the conventional wisdom from the left has relied on the bitter comments of snobs like Henry Adams, who slandered Grant as the avatar of the crass, benighted Gilded Age.

Though much of the public and even some historians haven’t yet heard the news, the vindication of Ulysses S. Grant is well under way. I expect that before too long Grant will be returned to the standing he deserves — not only as the military savior of the Union but as one of the great presidents of his era, and possibly one of the greatest in all American history.

Now, Ronald Reagan also has historic achievements — chiefly, discarding the advice of his hard-right supporters, embracing the Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, and taking the first important steps toward ending the cold war. On the other hand, his record on domestic affairs — especially his unsubtle winking at pro-segregationist Southerners and his administration’s fiercely reactionary policies on civil rights — was appalling.

To honor Reagan’s genuine achievements by downgrading those of Grant would deepen our chronic historical amnesia about the Civil War and Reconstruction, the central events of the first 250 years of American history, and their legacy of nationalism, freedom and equal rights. It’s hard to imagine that Ronald Reagan, whose modesty was part of his charm, would have approved of such a disgraceful act toward another president from Illinois. Ω

[Sean Wilentz is Dayton-Stockon Professor of History at Princeton University. He earned one B.A. at Columbia University in 1972, before earning another at Oxford University on a Kellett Fellowship. In 1980, he earned his Ph.D. at Yale University. Wilentz won the Frederick Jackson Turner Award (OAH, 1985), the Annual Book Award (Society for the History of the Early American Republic, 1985), and the Albert J. Beveridge Award (AHA, 1984) for his first book: Chants Democratic: New York City & the Rise of the American Working Class: 1788-1850 (1984). His second book — The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln (2005) was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in History. Most recently, he was the author of The Age of Reagan: A History, 1974-2008 (2008).]

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