I used to marvel at James
Carville and Paul
Begala. Despite the parade of scandals during the Clinton administration
– eight years of lies, deceit and power abuses – they never got tired of defending
Now I stand in amazement at Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, fast on their way
to becoming the Carville and Begala of the Bush administration.
Limbaugh compares the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal to fraternity hazing.
"This is no different than what happens at the Skull & Bones initiation. I'm
talking about people having a good time," he said. "You ever heard of emotional
release? You ever heard of needing to blow some steam off?"
So in Limbaugh's mind (now
drug-free, as far as we know), beating pledges to death and packing their
bodies in ice to mask the stench are now typical hijinks at New Haven. And sodomizing
them with night sticks is hilarious fun for all. (Urine test for Rush – stat!)
Hannity blames Democrats and their friends in the liberal media for making
a big stink out of a few bad apples. "They never tell you about all the good
things happening in Iraq!" he whines, even as the president of the Iraqi Governing
Council is assassinated.
And I thought the Clinton apologists were bad.
Sadly, Limbaugh and Hannity have proved themselves no different, and no better.
Ditto for all their dittoheads still in denial – and that's coming from someone
who voted for George W. Bush and against Bill Clinton both times, and whose
anti-Clinton stories have been read on air by Limbaugh and Hannity.
Slavishly pro-Bush, they've lost any credibility they gained as truth-tellers
under Beelzebubba. If you get your news about Iraq and Bush from Limbaugh or
Hannity, you are as woefully misinformed and misled as those who got their news
from the New York Times and the Washington Post during the Clinton
Hannity, for his part, insists he's been critical of Bush. For example, he
says he ripped Bush for co-opting some of the big-government ideas of Democrats,
such as the Medicare drug benefit.
But those are issues of policy, not character. Hannity was mad because Bush
wasn't Republican enough. He has never doubted Bush's honesty or integrity,
in spite of the raft of White House scandals surrounding 9-11 and Iraq – from
the Saudi evacuation and the censored 28
pages to Ahmed Chalabi, WMDs, Halliburton, Cheney-Scalia,
Joe Wilson, the State
of the Uranium and now the Abu Ghraib cover-up. These are monumental violations
of the public trust, and they speak directly to Bush's character.
Yet Hannity goes right on giving Bush the benefit of the doubt he never gave
Clinton (for good reason). And his arguments in his defense grow shriller and
more sophomoric by the day. Here's the general thrust of what he argues each
day during what amounts to a free, three-hour Bush campaign commercial:
- If you criticize Bush, you're a Democrat; and it doesn't matter if you aren't,
because you might as well be, you closet liberal, you.
- If you criticize the Iraq war, you're a traitor – or worse, a Dixie
- If you condemn the abuse of Iraqi prisoners, you don't support the troops
and are undermining the war effort.
- If you question the timing of Iraq regime change in the middle of a war
on al-Qaeda, you love Saddam.
- If you don't link Iraq and Afghanistan in the war on terrorism, you're a
hair-splitting wimp who can't see that all "ragheads" need a good beatin'
- If you hear negative news, it's liberal news.
These are the fulminations of a high-paid party hack posing as a patriot (not
to mention a journalist) to tap into the misplaced anger out there in fly-over
country – the Bush red states – after 9-11. Intellectual bullies like Hannity,
who set up bleeding-heart liberal strawmen like Alan Colmes (his Fox
counterpart) just to knock them down, fear honest debate; and people who
fear debate fear the truth. And the stone-cold truth is Republicans are overinvested
in Bush and his Iraq fraud, and their credibility is sinking with his poll numbers.
Before the Grand Old Party loses all credibility, it's high time Republicans
turn down their radios, put down their cups of RNC Kool-Aid, pull their heads
out from under the flag and start asking some hard questions about the leader
of their party, including whether he's worthy of nomination come August.
But before they can do that, they have to own up to some truths themselves.
Here's a quick test to gauge your own intellectual honesty. Circle Yes or No
after each question:
- Do you still believe Bush's claim that Iraq was a "direct threat" to America?
Y / N
- Before Bush launched Operation Iraqi Freedom, did you ever say, "You know,
honey, we really need to free those poor people in Iraq?" Y / N
- With anti-Saddam Shi’ites now joining Sunnis in fighting U.S.-led occupation
forces, do you still believe Bush when he says "terrorists" and "Saddam loyalists"
are behind the resistance, and not nationalists? Y / N
- With Iraqis now attacking Americans at a rate of 60 ambushes a day, do
you still buy Bush's argument that Americans have to stay in Iraq to protect
Iraqis, that we're the answer to the security problem and not the source of
it? Y / N
- Were any "terrorists" killing Americans in Iraq before Bush invaded Iraq?
Y / N
- Was capturing Saddam more urgent to the war on terrorism than capturing
Osama bin Laden, as the president sold it? Y / N
If you answered Yes to all of the above, you support the war simply to support
You can no longer honestly say the war was to protect America. The weapons
of mass destruction fraud has been exposed. Even Colin Powell admits peddling
lies. And we now know the secret National Intelligence Estimate Bush used to
justify invasion concluded that Saddam had no role in al-Qaeda's operations
or its attacks on Americans.
Try as you may, you can no longer argue Saddam is behind the insurgency, given
that more than a third of our GIs killed have been killed since his capture.
Nor can you claim to support the war to support the troops when many don't
want to be there, and others are torturing, massacring and looting innocent
Iraqi civilians. And you can't rationalize the prison brutality as a necessary
tactic against terrorists when Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba testified he couldn't
find a single terrorist in custody during his prison investigation.
Face it, there's nothing heroic or worthy left about this war in Iraq. It's
just a pile of lies. Unless you support lies, the only thing you're supporting
by supporting the war now is Bush. That's obviously good enough for Limbaugh
and Hannity, but is it good enough for you? Is reelecting Bush more important
to you than truth or young American lives? My party, right or wrong?
Republicans had a name for that warped kind of loyalty during the scandalous
Clinton presidency. They called it "ends-justify-means morality." They fairly
noted that Democrats didn't care if Clinton lied under oath to fix a lawsuit
against him, so long as he kept hauling in money for the party.
Now many Republicans are rationalizing their support for Bush in much the same
way, the only difference being his sins involve matters of life and death. "So
what if he lied us into war?" they tell themselves. "He's the War President,
and thanks to post-9-11 patriotism, we're raising more money from our base than
Clinton ever dreamed of."
The Amen Corner of the party is spiritually, as well as politically and emotionally,
invested in Bush, and even more delusional. They can't bring themselves to think
such a church-going man could be guileful, especially when they've convinced
themselves that God has anointed him to straighten out the problems in the Middle
East, restore Zion to full glory and speed the End Times. They also believe
his national security adviser is pure as the driven snow. How could cute little
Condi not be? She taught Sunday school for Heaven's sake!
This is the same crowd that's still holding out hope for the Second Coming
of weapons of mass destruction in Mesopotamia. You've got to believe they'll
appear! Let not thy hearts be troubled by their absence! Blinded by their faith
in George W.M.D. Bush, a man as fallible and sinful as the rest of us, they've
practically constructed a whole new theology based on evidence that doesn't
And these are the same Christian conservatives who demanded to know where the
outrage was during the Lewinsky scandal. Well, where's their outrage
now? Do war crimes not count as sins?
Apparently not to Republican Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma. He said he's more
"outraged by the outrage" over the American abuses of Iraqi prisoners than the
abuses. He says it's all politically driven. And besides, the Iraqis in those
cell blocks deserved what they got, he growled, because they're "terrorists."
Never mind that such punishment is illegal, and that none of the detainees held
at Abu Ghraib were in fact terrorists. And never mind that 3 out of 5 of them
weren't guilty of any crimes at all, according to the Taguba report, and should
never have been locked up in the first place.
That's all lost on Inhofe – though perhaps not on his staff. Rewind the videotape
of his full remarks at the May 11 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, and
you'll see a bespectacled female aide sitting behind him scowling and rolling
her eyes in disbelief as her boss gives his blessing to sadism.
At least there is some sanity left within the Republican Party. Other Republicans
on the Hill, most notably Rep. Ron Paul
of Texas, are outraged by the ongoing fraud called Operation Iraqi Freedom,
and they don't think the solution is adding more troops. They care more about
protecting young lives and the nation's founding principles than Bush's political
And listen to former Reagan official Paul
Craig Roberts, who recently said: "Bush lied us into war and continues to
lie to keep us there."
Not conservative enough for you? Then consider the advice a former foreign
policy aide to conservative giant Sen. Jesse Helms gave me last month. "I would
believe nothing you are told by anyone in the Bush administration," he warned.
"We are in a world of official lies as a method of government."
Or, you can continue to be a proud member of the Coalition of the Willing to
Believe White House Propaganda about Iraq. And you can go right on standing
fast with Bush and his talk radio lapdogs.
But know that you are standing on the wrong side of truth and history – a place
where the entire GOP may find itself stuck for many years if it doesn’t soon
divest itself from Bush and his Iraq debacle.