Sunday, November 26, 2006

The best of what's around?

The Washingtonian might just be nothing more than the People magazine for our region's upscale, well-educated white professionals who are simply too sophisticated to feign interest in Brittany Spears's marital woes or the latest hijinks of Paris Hilton and her entourage. But it does offer an insight into how the professional political-law-media complex here views itself -- self-important, increasingly money-driven, insular, elitist, entitled, intellectually incurious and bound to a peculiar conventional wisdom that confuses social status with smarts. Put in more specific terms, Washington is high school run amok. And if the Washington Post is the school paper, then the Washingtonian is the yearbook, published twelve times a year instead of one. And just like the cool kids in high school, self-appointed Very Important People in Washington love seeing their names, and increasingly, their pictures, in print.

So leave it to the Washingtonian to fawn all over Secretary of State Condi Rice as one of those important high-level officials "making a mark" on their corner of the professional world. Here is how Rice is described (and I am not making this up):

"When tensions flare abroad, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice is quickly on the scene -- the calm public face and articulate voice of the Bush administration foreign policy. In the last year, she has traveled to more than 20 nations, talking with leaders about everything from United Nations sanctions against North Korea to the development of an economically viable Palestinian state.

Rice's goal of 'transformative diplomacy," which she says is 'rooted in partnership, not paternalism -- in doing things with other people, not for them" -- represents a subtle but significant shift in emphasis for the administration.

Time will tell if her mark will be made in reviving peace talks in the Middle East -- or in mistakes she might have made as the President's national-security adviser. . . . But even as she defends an unpopular war, she remains a popular presence around Washington."

When George Bush leaves office on January 20, 2009 -- who's counting? -- Condi Rice will leave with perhaps the most complete record of failure of any foreign policy official in high-government since Robert McNamara. Her tenure as the NSA will remembered for two things: failing to heed the clear warnings given to her on the threat that Bin Laden posed to the United States and the imminent likelihood of a terrorist attack on American soil; and serving as a syncophantic voice on the Bush administration's Iraq war council. Since her promotion to the State Department, Rice has done nothing to improve the position of the United States abroad, or pursue any course of successful diplomacy to deal with the perilous state of affairs in the Korean pennisula, the Middle East or to diffuse the chaos in Iraq.

If Condi is the Prom Queen, then Tony Snow is Washington's Prom King. Gushes the "Making a Mark" profile on the Decider's press secretary:

"If ever the Bush White House needed an aggressive yet engaging personality at the podium, this was the year. (My Note: largely in part to Ms. Rice's incompetence.) Tony Snow . . . turned out to be just the guy.

At White House briefings -- dubbed 'the Tony Snow Show' by correspondents -- he has defended the administration on everything from Iraq policy to sagging poll numbers with a combination of combativeness and humor. He called Bob Woodward's latest book 'cotton candy -- it kind of melts on contact.'

That kind of talk has made Snow . . . a favorite with the GOP. . . .

The White House press corps may give Snow grief, but among Establishment Republicans . . . he's 'like Mick Jagger at a rock concert.'"

Where to start with Mr. Jagger-Snow? Although the White House still refuses to call the civil war in Iraq a civil war, even the mainstream news media, which, until very recently, has towed the administration's line on Iraq since March 2003, has acknowledged the reality of the Iraqi free-for-all. Snow recently said that the insurgency was more problematic than the administration had wished, BUT, refused to call the civil war a civil war, instead saying that the Iraqi civil war was not a civil war because "it's not clear that they are operating as a unified force. You don't have a clearly identifiable leader."

Got that? A civil war isn't a civil war unless each side is wearing clearly indentifiable uniforms (Blue and Gray, perhaps?) with matching regalia. If you don't believe that the civil war in Iraq is a civil war, read Harvard Professor Martha Duffy Toft's piece from last summer piece on the Nieman Watchdog site. Iraq jumped the shark a long time ago, and yet Tony Snow stands there day after day, lying to the public about the carnage in Iraq as if this were just some group of paintball enthusiasts gone a bit over-the-top.

Rice and Snow are not just running interference for presidential policies that involve reshaping the tax code, insisting that their boss wasn't asleep as hostile jets strafed US airspace or offering a smokescreen that no one really believed about their boss's extra-curricular sex life. The Bush administration is sending Americans to die almost every day for a lost cause; thousands of Iraqis, most of whom are civilians, are dying every month because of our decision to invade their country and our incompetence at establishing economic and political order. This is a disaster for which Rice has blood on her hands and Snow, although not a policy planner, has made a conscious choice to serve as the administration's voice. Why the Washingtonian would see fit to place two fluff pieces on these two Bush apparatchiks is a decision that ought to make more responsible journalists shudder with embarrassment.

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