April 15, 2004
Let them keep diggingBy Thomas Lifson
A substantial portion of the American left is so obsessed with hatred for George W. Bush that they cannot fathom how their words and deeds appear to others. Events of the last few days provide several examples of counter—productive behavior by leading Democrats and their allies in the press.
The infantile 'gotcha' press conference questioning of President Bush by members of he White House press corps, transparently aimed at generating a Kerry campaign commercial sound byte of the President apologizing, did nothing to improve the low standing of the fourth estate in the public's eye. Their hounding of him to admit his 'worst mistake' (among all the many, many he's implicitly made), reinforced the impression that they are out to get him.
Since the President was able to choose the reporters allowed to ask questions, and took questions from hostile quarters, one can only conclude that he was implementing a strategy which could be called 'let them keep digging,' (LTKD) after the old political adage that when your opponent is digging himself into a hole, get out of the way and don't interfere. Instead of calling on, for instance Byron York, from the presumably—friendly National Review, the President instead called on CBS, NBC, and NPR reporters, who could be counted upon to ask hostile questions.
The President's re—election team understands fully that the traditional media —— most big city daily newspapers, the newsweeklies, the alphabet television networks, most prominently —— are consumed with hatred for him, and are doing all they can to elect his opponent. They understand that somehow they must overcome a media majority which will make him look bad whenever events can be construed in a negative light, and will downplay or overlook negative information pertaining to his opponents.
Faced with this unpleasant reality, the White House team appears to have decided to let the press discredit itself in the eyes of a majority of the public. Let them display their unfairness where the public can see it with their own eyes. Let reporters treat the President with inadequately concealed contempt. The public does not want to see their commander in chief disrespected. Not by the French. Not by the Arabs. And not by a press corps which a plurality of the public understands to be liberally—biased.
The 9/11 Commission's public hearings offer another example of the LTKD strategy in action.
Allowing National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice to testify under oath was treated as an Administration concession to the demands of the Democrats on the panel. But perhaps the choreography of first refusing and then reversing course was simply baiting a trap for the likes of Richard Ben Veniste and Robert Kerrey. If so, it worked like a charm.
Former Senator Kerrey badly overplayed his hand by badgering Condi, and using the term 'filibustering' to describe her attempt to be complete in answering his questions. This followed shortly after he had used a substantial portion of his allotted time to digress into irrelevant criticism of Iraq policy. There is no rational explanation for such self—defeating behavior. Some form of obsession is at work.
Inexplicably, Democrat member Richard Ben Veniste chose to dress that day in a suit with exceptionally wide pinstripes, the favorite outfit of sleazy lawyers in films of yore, as he badgered the nervous—but—dignified Rice. Intoxicated with undue regard for his own intelligence and cunning, he demanded declassification of a memo whose greatest impact lay in its title.
Despite press efforts to portray the memo in question as harmful to the Administration, the short length of the memo, combined with its universal availability via the internet, means that enough people will read it for themselves to ensure that no harm will be done to the President. The public knows that the press hates Bush. Those who care will look at the evidence for themselves
The Democrats are, instead, painting an unpleasant picture of themselves. The larger picture which is emerging from the Commission's hearings is that Democrats want to play a blame game about events which cannot be changed, in a time when other much more urgent questions need to be addressed. Most Americans have not forgotten the trauma of 9/11. They know that evil forces want to destroy us. When survival itself is in question, the mind maintains its focus on the questions which are of greatest importance.
In other words, a perception is deepening that the Democrats are not to be trusted to defend America in a time of peril.
The latest example of the LTKD strategy is the treatment of Jamie Gorelick, a member appointed to the 9/11 Commission by the Democrats.
The Bush Administration obviously must have known of her classified memorandum of 1995, which heightened the 'wall' between intelligence and criminal investigators beyond the law's requirements, at the time that Democrats proposed her as a 9/11 Commission member. Instead of objecting to the obvious conflict—of—interest at the beginning, they let her sit on the Commission.
As the Democrats on the panel have done all they can to heap blame on the Bush team's 8 months in office, and deflect attention away from the 8 years of Clinton, during which al Qaeda grew into a mortal threat to us, the Republicans on the panel have avoided the temptation to reciprocally play the blame game.
Now, however, Attorney General Ashcroft, the most—vilified member of the Bush cabinet, has revealed in his testimony the contents of the Gorelick Memo, in front of the live television cameras. The traditional media have done their utmost to downplay its bombshell contents, with headlines emphasizing 'Ashcroft blames Clinton Administraion' and similar messages.
But once again, the memo is short, and readily available to all, via the web. The Democrats have made a point of the necessity to blame someone for the 'failure to connect the dots' prior to 9/11. This opened the jaws of the trap. The Attorney General was very specific in his prepared statement:
In the days before September 11, the wall specifically impeded the investigation into Zacarias Moussaoui, Khalid al—Midhar and Nawaf al—Hazmi. After the FBI arrested Moussaoui, agents became suspicious of his interest in commercial aircraft and sought approval for a criminal warrant to search his computer. The warrant was rejected because FBI officials feared breaching the wall.
When the CIA finally told the FBI that al—Midhar and al—Hazmi were in the country in late August, agents in New York searched for the suspects. But because of the wall, FBI headquarters refused to allow criminal investigators who knew the most about the most recent al Qaeda attack to join the hunt for the suspected terrorists.
We have seven months ahead of us until the election takes place. That is more than enough time for the trap to close. The slower the better. Instead of wild Republican accusations of Gorelick's culpability, let the public draw its own conclusions.
Representative James Sensenbrenner's demand that Jamie Gorelick step down from the Commission is but the first step in that process. Democrats' counter—arguments can only result in more digging of their self—created hole.
Let them keep digging.