04 November 2005

Bringing Down the White House

With the indictment of Dick Cheney’s Chief of Staff, Lewis Libby, many opponents of the Bush government are now hopeful that a dramatic political shift could come soon.

Already a majority of Americans thinks the president is doing a bad job on all fronts, and that includes the War in Iraq. The anti-war protests on campus last Wednesday were part of a growing discontentment with the president’s insistence on staying the course. After the media reports about the White House leaking the identity of a covert CIA agent, most people have become convinced that the current administration has more than just a few drops of blood on its hands when it comes to Iraq and the reasons for going to war.

Not surprisingly, the Libby indictment is considered evidence of a White House cover-up of the government’s lies about pre-war intelligence. Many media present it as the first step toward bringing down the White House. The Minneapolis Star Tribune exhorted senators on Thursday to refuse debate on the Alito nomination until the White House comes clean on the leak scandal. The secret session forced upon the Senate by Democratic leaders this past week was interpreted by some as a reminder to the Republicans that the Democrats are not impressed by threats of the “nuclear option” in case Judge Alito is filibustered. But minority leader Harry Reid used the Iraq War as the grounds for his request.

However, what is perhaps even more troubling than the indictment of a White House official on felony charges is the fact that Americans are now listening to only one side of the media. Ever more Americans are digging into partisan trenches and accuse the media of being biased, yet are astonishingly willing to believe those media that play tunes to their political liking.

Many Americans believe that, in the media, there are only sources of Truth and sources of the Lie, yet the opposing political sides identify these sources differently, of course. This simplistic representation of the media and their role in politics is doing little for a critical engagement with the news. It is important we get our heads out of the partisan sand.

Take the CIA leak scandal. Joe Wilson’s repeated appearances on national TV recently are quite sickening. Just because it was the right-wing Weekly Standard that revealed a number of disconcerting inconsistencies in Mr Wilson’s version of his trip to Niger and subsequent government actions, does not mean we have further justification to hail him as a whistle-blower against White House corruption.

Nobody has to get a subscription to the Weekly Standard, but their arguments in this case are compelling and they suggest that the former ambassador and his wife are more than up to a very dirty game of bluff poker with the White House. Right now, they have already won several hands, thanks to the mainstream media’s gullibility and disinterest. On this topic, American media has its fingers in its ears, shouting, “Bush is a liar! Bush is a liar!”

Indeed, I believe that the Bush administration has been wrong on many things concerning Iraq. But the a Senate Intelligence Report from July 2004 also drove a small truck through Mr Wilson’s tearjerker op-ed piece. Nobody takes any notice of it because it is politically more convenient to enlist Mr Wilson in the all-important cause of bringing down the Bush White House.

I cannot help but protest that it does matter whom you enlist. The political left hailed the indictment of Lewis “Liar” Libby as a victory of justice. The reason: it is the first step toward cleaning out White House corruption. Joe Wilson can hardly be an advocate for truth and accountability, considering his shady part in the affair.

Mr Wilson and his ilk are not going to convince moderate conservatives like myself to join the campaign to hold the Bush administration accountable. As long as this campaign is dominated by people who can only shout mindless choruses against the current president, we are not making any progress, and you will not see me outside Coffmann Union to protest the war.

Call me crazy, but I would like a little more substance and intelligence in politics. The idea that demonstrations and revolutions are the only way to effect political change is a rather quaint Bolshevik fantasy.

As for Iraq, let’s put our thinking caps on and think of a way to bring back America’s soldiers without leaving the terrorists dancing and singing in Iraq. And as for the current administration, continue the protests, naturally. I would also advocate regular visits to factcheck.org, a non-partisan media watchdog project at the University of Pennsylvania, to get a reality check on the media bias that permeates all news in this country.

For one thing, they show that the famous “16 words” in the 2003 State of the Union were certainly factually incorrect but, fair is fair, that at the time President Bush had good reason to believe his claim about WMD in Iraq was accurate. There is a huge difference between being wrong and consciously lying.

There is no point in replacing one lie with another. If we want real change, let’s first do our homework. Don’t just rely on the Cliff’s Notes to current politics. You’ll miss the all-important details.