the blog of DC Drinking Liberally
Dan Froomkin highlights the latest pointlessly deranged bullying from the Vice President for Torture:
After nine days of almost completely ignoring the small pool of reporters who diligently followed him around through seven countries, Vice President Cheney yesterday finally agreed to a short group interview. But only on one condition: The reporters would have to agree not to tell anyone that the person they talked to was him.
Cheney’s insistence on being identified as a “senior administration official” — even when the transcript shows he spoke in the first person — is in some ways laughably trivial.
But in other ways, the vice president’s decision to extort reporters into a ridiculous agreement reflects the contempt Cheney has for the press corps.
Ridiculous is right. Look at this paragraph from the White House transcript of the “Interview of a Senior Administration Official by the Traveling Press Aboard Air Force Two En Route Muscat, Oman”:
Let me just make one editorial comment here. I’ve seen some press reporting says, “Cheney went in to beat up on them, threaten them.” That’s not the way I work. I don’t know who writes that, or maybe somebody gets it from some source who doesn’t know what I’m doing, or isn’t involved in it. But the idea that I’d go in and threaten someone is an invalid misreading of the way I do business.
What is going through Cheney’s head when he does something like that? He makes it obvious that he’s the one speaking, but still forces the press to agree not to say so. I know he’s obsessed with secrecy (and prefers to avoid telling the truth whenever possible), but isn’t that a little insane even for him?
[Update] Moved the text of the original post here. :)
Al Gore threw down a gauntlet today.
Not some little leather glove with a long cuff like you’d see at a Rennaissance festival.
A real gauntlet.One of the big ugly bastards that jousters wore on the off hand, a thick leather glove that only existed to protect your skin from the fully articulated steel fingers, thumb, and wrist. A heavy plate that covered the back of your hand, and the thick armor to protect your lower forearm. You know. The kind of gauntlet that if you got hit in the face with it, your dentist would have a religious experience.
Got the point across? Good. Now we’ll set the scene. But first, grab a cup of coffee… this is a long one, and well worth your undivided attention.
One fault George Bush has that isn’t directly dangerous to the country or the world at large is his knack for making callous jokes about other people’s losses. For example, at a March 2004 dinner for journalists he presented a slide show joking about his search for weapons of mass destruction in the Oval Office. When he was governor of Texas and starting to run for president, Bush ridiculed a woman who was asking to have her death sentence commuted.
When not joking, Bush manages to demonstrate insensitivity in a different way, by comparing relatively minor problems he’s having to other people’s life-and-death matters.
Via Olaf at Catch.com, I see that yesterday Bush managed to combine the insensitive joking and the trivializing comparison into a single remark, when he appeared at a military hospital to award Purple Hearts. He was sporting a scratch on his forehead, the result of a freak brush-clearing accident, so he decided this was an appropriate thing to say to the wounded soldiers:
As you can probably see I was injured myself, not here at the hospital but in combat with a cedar… I eventually won.
The reaction to his humor from patients in the Army Burn Center and the Amputee Care Center is not recorded.
Part of the White House response to the political dimension of Katrina is apparently to spread the idea that the people remaining in New Orleans have only themselves to blame for their predicament (or their deaths). Michael Brown, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, had this to say to Wolf Blitzer on Thursday:
Well, I think the death toll may go into the thousands. And unfortunately, that’s going to be attributable a lot to people who did not heed the evacuation warnings. And I don’t make judgments about why people choose not to evacuate.
But, you know, there was a mandatory evacuation of New Orleans. And to find people still there is just heart wrenching to me because the mayor did everything he could to get them out of there. And so we’ve got to figure out some way to convince people that when evacuation warnings go out, it’s for their own good.
Michael Chertoff, head of the Department of Homeland Security, also made the point:
“The critical thing was to get people out of there before the disaster,” he said on NBC’s Today program. “Some people chose not to obey that order. That was a mistake on their part.“
Now I expect this sort of absolute lack of empathy from Bush, but has he staffed his entire administration with other sociopaths? I don’t expect them to have spent a lot of time talking to poor, elderly, or disabled people, but can’t they exercise a little imagination and understand that not everyone has a car (or limo and driver) , a credit card, or perhaps multiple homes — that maybe some people don’t have much “choice” about evacuating when there’s no government help? Some of the people trapped in New Orleans are even relatively wealthy tourists who couldn’t get out after the airport closed.
Fortunately, although conservatives often view poverty as a sign of moral failure, not all Bush supporters are picking up the rhetoric. On Friday’s Diane Rehm Show, even the odious Tony Blankley — someone willing to hint last year that George Soros had been a Nazi collaborator — wouldn’t go along with it (my transcript):
Obviously for middle-class folks like us, if we have to run, we go to the Hyatt, we give them a piece of plastic, we sit up on the eighteenth floor, and we get room service. For a person who has nothing, their decision to leave their home isn’t only a decision to leave their home. If they have a choice between being homeless back home or being homeless in a strange town, you pick back home. So an awful lot of understanding has to be given to people who decided to stay who were poor.
I’m not sure how “middle-class” Blankley really is, but at least he’s showing a lot more compassion than the Bush administration he supports.
When asked about Cindy Sheehan in Crawford on Saturday, President Bush responded not that she should get past her grief and get on with her life (which would at least have recognized her feelings), but that he needs to get on with his life:
Bush said he is aware of the anti-war sentiments of Cindy Sheehan and others who have joined her protest near the Bush ranch.
“But whether it be here or in Washington or anywhere else, there’s somebody who has got something to say to the president, that’s part of the job,” Bush said on the ranch. “And I think it’s important for me to be thoughtful and sensitive to those who have got something to say.”
“But,” he added, “I think it’s also important for me to go on with my life, to keep a balanced life.” […]
“I think the people want the president to be in a position to make good, crisp decisions and to stay healthy,” he said when asked about bike riding while a grieving mom wanted to speak with him. “And part of my being is to be outside exercising.”
This self-absorption in the face of bereaved families reminded me of something Bush said at a press conference last year. It was April 13, 2004. The month was not yet over, but it was already on track to have the most US deaths of any month of the war to that point. Just four days earlier, 15 troops had been killed in a single day, and for more than a week the average had been far above the one or two a day that people had become (grimly) accustomed to. This is what he said about the period:
There’s no question it’s been a tough, tough series of weeks for the American people. It’s been really tough for the families. I understand that. It’s been tough on this administration.
He sympathized with the families who had lost members. He understood. After all, it had been tough for his administration too. To Bush, the political problems he was facing as people realized the war wasn’t going so well were comparable to the problems faced by those whose loved ones were being killed.
Has Bush’s completely sheltered life, from birth through the Oval Office bubble, left him incapable of comprehending that other people have feelings? That not everything is about him? It sure looks like it.
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