Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Green Moon of Discipline

Political watchers, like other kinds of sports fans, have a special vocabulary that is sometimes interesting to examine.

One of the words frequently used to describe the Bush Administration, by supporters and critics alike, is disciplined. No, we are definitely not referring to fiscal discipline. Certainly we are not referring to a disciplined approach to executive power. What political watchers mean by disciplined is that the Tyrant and his operatives stay "on message." They will repeat something, regardless of its truth, over and over again and will not depart from the script no matter what.

REPORTER: Today the President said the moon is made of green cheese. How does this statement hold up against scientific knowledge about the composition of the moon?

PRESS SECRETARY: Well, I think the President's statement is perfectly clear, and if you want to question the president's assurance that the moon is indeed made of green cheese, I suppose you'll have to go talk to scientists. You can always find a scientist to confirm what you want.

REPORTER: But Dana, we've BEEN to the moon! American astronauts have walked on the moon! Today, former senator John Glenn called his own press conference to say this green moon talk is nonsense.

PRESS SECRETARY: The President's critics will always trot out someone to contradict him, but John Glenn you will remember did not actually walk on the moon himself. Neither, I think, have you. The President's job is to stay apprised of these things, and today he has confirmed that several bodies in space are composed of green cheese. The moon is only one of these. I would question why this fixation on making the moon something other than what it is.

This is barely an exaggeration, gentle reader! Aside from my silly imaginary topic, this is very much the way the White House speaks and has always spoken to the American people. Are you prepared for a real-life example? Here we go. This is what political watchers call "discipline."

As we begin YEAR SIX of the Iraq Occupation, the President presented, as usual, a transparent lie in his speech at the Pentagon (emphasis mine):

Out of such chaos in Iraq, the terrorist movement could emerge emboldened -- with new recruits, new resources, and an even greater determination to dominate the region and harm America. An emboldened al Qaeda with access to Iraq's oil resources could pursue its ambitions to acquire weapons of mass destruction to attack America and other free nations. Iran would be emboldened as well.

They weren't playing that sound byte on many news stations. It's a howler. The President of the United States is claiming that al Qaeda, in reality a small and fiercely unpopular insurgent group in Iraq, is somehow going to be allowed to poach Iraqi oil and sell it internationally? How does that work? We're supposed to believe the Shi'ite majority in Iraq, the Mahdi Army, Sadrists AND Badrists - and the Shi'ite nation of Iran - would permit such a thing?

Now let's go to the press conference for a moment. A reporter actually followed up on this stinking lie - or tried. This is what political watchers call "discipline."

Q The President warned of the danger that al Qaeda could gain access to Iraq's oil resources. But I don't understand how a fragmented, clandestine, non-Iraqi terrorist organization could produce and sell Iraqi oil on the global market, especially when the majority of Iraqis have turned against al Qaeda. Could you describe a plausible scenario?

MS. PERINO: The purpose of what the President said is that al Qaeda should not be allowed to have safe haven in Iraq and take over --

Q How can they take over Iraq's oil reserves --
[[Yes, can we get back to this lie?]]

MS. PERINO: Well, if we were to leave we would certainly ensue chaos and not be able to -- if we were to leave too soon, it would certainly be chaos and it would be terrible for not only the innocent Iraqis, but the entire region and, in fact, our own national security. That's what the President --

Q But the Iraqis would let a foreign terrorist organization take over their oil?
[[Attempt #3.]]

MS. PERINO: You're missing the point, and I think that you should go back and read --

Q No, I --

MS. PERINO: Yes, actually, I think you are missing the point. And I call on you because I see what you write about how you come here and you really want to have questions asked. And I'm calling on you and I'm providing it to you, but I suggest that you read the President's speech and read it in context, because that's -- what you're suggesting is not what the President said.

And with that she moved on to another question.


VOTERS - We need to start writing letters to news editors. Stop passing those meaningless on-line petitions, folks, they mean nothing. Phone calls, emails, and letters to news editors - your newspaper, your news radio station, your TV news station, your favorite newsy websites and blogs - and urge them to report on and question lies like this.

And you POLITICAL WATCHERS - maybe it's time to reconsider some of this vocabulary. Staying "on message" is not necessarily a virtue. Is it not a little strange and cynical to watch someone stick to an indefensible lie and call that "discipline?"

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