Unanswered Questions, Disturbing Thoughts

Bob Herbert was, in a bygone age, tough—minded yet passionate, a doggedly objective reporter who seemed to embody the best traits of those incorruptible newshounds of the silver screen. Once capable of making sharp distinctions, of offering his readers the occasional penetrating insight, he has undergone a dreadful mutation into the single most tiresome and predictable hack in the New York Times stable of tiresomely dreary and predictable hacks.

Possibly the strain of operating within the confines of the paper's stultifying orthodoxy sapped his creativity and blighted his capacity for nuance, but the result is a sad one. The same column gets endlessly recycled, its theme relentlessly unvarying. Bush is always wrong and ordinary human error is inadequate to account for the blunders, the miscalculations, the outright failures. No, this singularly disastrous administration is animated by malevolence, innate and irremediable, unprecedented in American politics.

Liberals gobble up this pap. They ought to know better, that such shallow, one—sided junk is Happy Meals for the mind. The total exclusion of nutritious food from the diet leads to stunted growth and premature loss of brain cells. In its promise of understanding without the necessity of acquiring knowledge, its projection of righteous anger unrestrained by logic, unthinking sanctimony is symptomatic of the malaise afflicting mainstream culture. Still, such a simplistic worldview, so smugly devoid of introspection, so grotesquely uncharitable and intellectually dishonest—is it any wonder that nowadays Herbert seems to embody the worst traits of the ideologized frauds currently passing for newshounds?

With the mid—term elections drawing close, and the Democrats braying incessantly about a Republican 'culture of corruption,' what is certainly a wonder is that the campaign will end without anyone breathing a word about Hillary's New Square shenanigans. As a sort of anti—homage to Bob Herbert, I will quote myself writing two years ago about a defining incident from her first run.

'Hillary Rodham Clinton began her protracted presidential campaign four years ago by claiming a Senate seat from a state she didn't live in. Her pro—Palestinian sentiments caused problems with New York's large Jewish population, and in particular, allowed her opponent, Rick Lazio, to trounce her in Hasidic communities. Except for one.

'New Square Community, in Rockland County, contained four prominent men who got very rich by applying for and receiving Federal scholarships for 1500 students. The students didn't exist and the four men picked 'Go Directly to Jail' cards. The Smartest Woman Who Ever Lived visited New Square in August of 2000. In November, she won that district by the tidy margin of 1400 to 12 (a cool 99.15%). In December, a delegation from New Square journeyed to Washington, D.C. and visited with America's first Jewish President, who bit his lower lip and felt their pain. In January 2001, the four naughty Hasids were pardoned.

'All of this has a familiar ring. True, it's the most spectacularly unambiguous example of vote—buying to come along the pike in a hound's age, but the Clintons do lots of crooked things. There is much huffing and puffing; they dare anyone to do something about it; nobody does nuthin'.'

Unlike Herbert, when I take a shovel to an old piece, I feel honor bound to alert the reader through the use of quotation marks. The urge to revisit this sordid business is very strong, though; I feel the tug. That nobody gives a damn (apart from Dick Morris, whose scathing expose Rewriting History served as my source) about a crime so brazen simply amazes me.

Does anyone imagine that the obvious vote—trading was the extent of the wrongdoing, not the tip of the iceberg? I mean, Hillary won by a huge margin. The thousand or so votes involved can't possibly be the key to whatever arrangement produced four presidential pardons. To lay the cards on the table, to spell it out in alphabet blocks, to—pick a clich Could any Clinton lapdog contend, while maintaining a straight face, that no contributions were made to the Bubba fund?

Let's waste no time with the usual theater, the orchestrated displays of feigned indignation by the eternal First Couple's professional enablers. We'll all agree that I've made a terrible, awful, mean—spirited insinuation, typical of the right's politics of personal destruction, and I can't prove a thing. Of course I can't. No one can ever prove anything where the HillBillies are concerned. But, purely as an exercise, suppose you're a Clintonista, whether enthusiastic or merely dutiful, and you want to take a shot at explaining how the four swindlers escaped punishment: what approach looks promising? How would you try to pull this one off without assuming an exchange of beaucoup buckaroos? Take your time. The voters are pretty gullible.

Questions that never get asked of the Clintons—someone should write a book on the subject. Chris Wallace tried to buck the system by serving up a medium—speed breaking pitch to Bill on Fox News Sunday recently, and after the tumult died down, it became fairly obvious that Bill hadn't missed entirely, but neither had he made solid contact. How would he have done if pressed for details on the four—day bombing campaign he authorized in December 1998? According to Kenneth M. Pollack, who twice served under him as director for Gulf affairs at the National Security Council.

'Altogether, the United States and Britain flew 650 aircraft sorties and fired 415 cruise missiles at Iraq. The ostensible goal of the attack was to 'degrade' Iraq's WMD programs and 'its ability to threaten its neighbors.' However, the fact was that only eleven of the ninety—seven targets attacked were WMD facilities because the administration generally did not know where Iraq was concealing its WMD programs. This, of course, was why UNSCOM still has a job to do. Instead, for the first time, the United States principally struck a set of targets related to Saddam's control over the country, including eighteen command—and—control facilities, eight Republican Guard barracks, six airfields, and nineteen sites related to the concealment mechanism—which actually consisted largely of Special republican Guard garrisons, internal security facilities, and other sites that were key components of Saddam's police state.' [The Threatening Storm, Random House 2002, pp. 92—3]

Maybe I'm a little dense, and possibly I'm missing something obvious, but what Pollack presents so matter—of—factly should raise a few eyebrows. For starters, if the goal was to degrade Saddam's WMD programs, can't we reasonably conclude that, uh, they existed?! At the very least, we can conclude that everyone assumed they did, right?

Now, I find the part about bombing Republican Guard barracks troubling. Please don't misunderstand: Saddam's regime was loathsome and I strongly supported its overthrow. But the idea of slaughtering soldiers in their barracks when they are completely unaware that they are in a war—can someone explain why leftists, for whom everything Bush does constitutes a war crime, found themselves with absolutely nothing to say

As a conservative, I am extremely hesitant to condemn an American President's use of force against a genocidal monster, but for people on my left, who can seriously claim that putting a bag over a prisoner's head to humiliate him is a war crime, shouldn't killing hundreds, if not thousands, of Iraqi troops in a series of punitive strikes be recognized as more like the genuine article?

There is a gigantic hole in the ongoing disingenuous debate over the Iraq War. Weapons that everyone had reason to believe were being concealed by the Iraqis could not be found. So, the immediate reaction of the Democrats and their water carriers in the media was to scream that those weapons never existed. But no one, not one of the shrillest congressional Bush—bashers, held that opinion before the invasion. Imagine you call the police to report that your house has been burglarized and your television is missing. They set out to prove that you are delusional and you never owned a television. In a sane world, that's where the investigation might end up. Surely, it's not the place to begin.

Surely you remember the following?

An American military action receives the name, Operation Desert Fox. Several psychiatrists and pop psychologists make the rounds of the talk shows and write articles pointing out the hidden Nazi symbolism: Erwin Rommel, one of Hitler's greatest generals was, after all, called the Desert Fox. Several newspapers, including the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times editorialize about the tone—deaf administration that, either through sheer ignorance or a darker design, evokes the memory of a hero of the Third Reich.

Nothing of the sort happened, you insist. The thought of such a feeding frenzy over an implausible, hopelessly strained Nazi message is madness. Hinting at connections between an American President and Nazis is beyond the pale, shameful.

You're half—right. Nothing of the sort happened. Propriety, rationality, elementary fairness, and common decency, however, have nothing to do with the reason why this media firestorm didn't occur. It didn't occur because the commander—in—chief during Operation Desert Fox was Bill Clinton, and not George Bush.

Ronald Wieck today returns to American Thinker as an occasional contributor.

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