Thursday, December 07, 2006

Pretty Guys Make Graves

I feel a little sorry for the ladies and gentlemen of the press who are paid to suffer through daily bull sessions with White House Press Secretary Tony Snow. I’m not supposed to feel sorry for them, I suppose, because Snow is theoretically so affable and charming, and has such “a way” about him, and speaks everyone’s language having once been, nominally anyway, a member of the fourth estate himself. But, feel sorry I must.


Because I can’t help but put myself in that room and imagine having to listen to the smug doublespeak that spills from Tony’s festering hole, while all the time trying to carry on a civil discourse from my side of the lectern—asking questions as if they were actually to be answered—resisting the overwhelming impulse to deck the guy. Realizing that I abhor violence does little to calm my nerves, and understanding that such a display would cost me my career only serves to make me hate the choices that have lead me here. Resisting the fist, I instead bottle it up inside, and leave the briefing room each day with my blood boiling and my stomach ulcerating.

Imagine, for example, having to listen to Wednesday’s gaggle as Snow tried to spin the findings of the Iraq Study Group.

First, Snow insists that the fabulous Baker boys and the President are in lock step: “They [the ISG] have adopted the goals that the administration has laid out.”

Now, that just seems absurd on its face, doesn’t it? I mean, even if you just go by the headlines from the report, you know that, while hardly a work of staggering genius, it is certainly not a reiteration of White House goals. And yet, Snow goes on, and on, and on insisting this to an incredulous (but very polite) David Gregory.

And Gregory doesn’t even raise a hand as if to slap, nor does he collect saliva as if to spit, nor does he simply throw his pen and pad at Snow and storm out. Instead, Gregory keeps at it.

Gregory’s reward for his well-mannered persistence is to be called “partisan” by Thin Tony.

But that doesn’t end it, because David, though taken aback, again goes to his professional happy place and asks more specific questions about the ISG report:

Q The report clearly advocates policies that are in opposition to administration policies. For instance, last week in Estonia the President said the only way to engage Iran is for Iran to verifiably suspend its enrichment program. And the report says you need to directly engage Iran. How do you square that?

MR. SNOW: Yes, I saw you ask that question before, and there are a couple of things. First, it's not clear, and it will be interesting to look at whether the report advocates one-on-one talks with Iran; there is talk about developing a support group. But let me tell you what it does say about Iran. Jim Baker, when he was answering your question --

Q Tony, it says "directly engage."

MR. SNOW: Yes, but "directly engage" -- but then it also talks about in the context of the support group.

Q But how are we going to redefine under the -- I think it says --

MR. SNOW: "Under the aegis of the support group."
Q That's right.

MR. SNOW: That's different, I think, than one-on-one conversations, which is something that --

Q Sounds to me like the support group oversees it, and the U.S. directly engages.

MR. SNOW: Well, we'll see. But I'm telling you that there may be a difference between one-on-one talks with Iran, which is something that we have ruled out.

Q And that remains ruled out?

MR. SNOW: Yes, unless Iran verifiably suspends its enrichment and reprocessing activities. But it was interesting because -- as I said, I don't want to rule out entirely because it's worth taking a good look at what all this means.

You see, this is the point where if I’m not physically restrained, I strangle Tony Snow with his own tedious necktie.

“Why so angry?” you ask.

Well, I think that it has something to do with the fact that while Snow and his White House play semantics in an attempt to say Yes and No at the same time without admitting to be being indecisive (“Splunge!”), things like this are happening:

And things like this:

In other words, while it all seems like a game to Tony Snow—well played, jolly good, I’ll get you back, you partisan nut, you—people, lots of people, are dying.

And while the administration that Snow shills for tries to figure out the best way to appear to be giving serious consideration to the Baker-Hamilton report, all the time knowing they neither accept its premise nor intend to implement its recommendations, more, many more, will die.

It is the cavalier, just for yucks tone of guys like Snow coupled with the transparent bullshitting that makes me angry. It is that all of this craptastic spinning goes on in lieu of policy changes that might halt or slow the killing, it is that that makes me wonder why no one has rearranged Snow’s pretty face.

* * *

Now, just for yucks, of course, let’s look at a serious critique of the Iraq Study Group report:

The fact is this commission was composed apparently entirely of people who did not have the judgment to oppose this Iraq war in the first place, and did not have the judgment to realize it was not a wise move in the fight against terrorism. So that's who is doing this report. Then I looked at the list of who testified before them. There is virtually no one who opposed the war in the first place. Virtually no one who has been really calling for a different strategy that goes for a global approach to the war on terrorism. So this is really a Washington inside job and it shows not in the description of what's happened - that's fairly accurate - but it shows in the recommendations. It's been called a classic Washington compromise that does not do the job of extricating us from Iraq in a way that we can deal with the issues in Southeast Asia, in Afghanistan, and in Somalia which are every bit as important as what is happening in Iraq. This report does not do the job and it's because it was not composed of a real representative group of Americans who believe what the American people showed in the election, which is that it's time for us to have a timetable to bring the troops out of Iraq.

That would be Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold, a man who is not running for President, or looking to position himself for anything else, except maybe as a representative of what the great majority of Americans already know.


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