I don't happen to quite appreciate how Iraq could give types like John "Bomb, Bomb, Bomb - Bomb, Bomb Iran" McCain a big stiffy, but here's what Frank Rich noted in Sunday, April 22nd's OpEd in The Times.
President Bush has skipped the funerals of the troops he sent to Iraq. He took his sweet time to get to Katrina-devastated New Orleans. But last week he raced to Virginia Tech with an alacrity not seen since he hustled from Crawford to Washington to sign a bill interfering in Terri Schiavo's end-of-life medical care. Mr. Bush assumes the role of mourner in chief on a selective basis, and, as usual with the decider, the decisive factor is politics. Let Walter Reed erupt in scandal, and he'll take six weeks to show his face - and on a Friday at that, to hide the story in the Saturday papers. The heinous slaughter in Blacksburg, Va., by contrast, was a rare opportunity for him to ostentatiously feel the pain of families whose suffering cannot be blamed on the administration.Read the rest at Chez Rozius Unbound.
But he couldn't inspire the kind of public acclaim that followed his post-9/11 visit to ground zero or the political comeback that buoyed his predecessor after Oklahoma City. The cancer on the Bush White House, Iraq, is now spreading too fast. The president had barely returned to Washington when the empty hope of the "surge" was hideously mocked by a one-day Baghdad civilian death toll more than five times that of Blacksburg's. McClatchy Newspapers reported that the death rate for American troops over the past six months was at its all-time high for this war.
At home, the president is also hobbled by the Iraq cancer's metastasis - the twin implosions of Alberto Gonzales and Paul Wolfowitz. Technically, both men have been pilloried for sins unrelated to the war. The attorney general has repeatedly been caught changing his story about the extent of his involvement in purging eight federal prosecutors. The Financial Times caught the former deputy secretary of defense turned World Bank president privately dictating the extravagant terms of a State Department sinecure for a crony (a k a romantic partner) that showers her with more take-home pay than Condoleezza Rice.
Yet each man's latest infractions, however serious, are mere misdemeanors next to their roles in the Iraq war. What's being lost in the Beltway uproar is the extent to which the lying, cronyism and arrogance showcased by the current scandals are of a piece with the lying, cronyism and arrogance that led to all the military funerals that Mr. Bush dares not attend. Having slept through the fraudulent selling of the war, Washington is still having trouble confronting the big picture of the Bush White House. Its dense web of deceit is the deliberate product of its amoral culture, not a haphazard potpourri of individual blunders.
Mr. Gonzales's politicizing of the Justice Department is a mere bagatelle next to his role as White House counsel in 2002, when he helped shape the administration's legal argument to justify torture. That paved the way for Abu Ghraib, the episode that destroyed America's image and gave terrorists a moral victory. But his efforts to sabotage national security didn't end there. In a front-page exposé lost in the Imus avalanche two Sundays ago, The Washington Post uncovered Mr. Gonzales's reckless role in vetting the nomination of Bernard Kerik as secretary of homeland security in December 2004.
Mr. Kerik, you may recall, withdrew from consideration for that cabinet post after a week of embarrassing headlines. Back then, the White House ducked any culpability for the mess by attributing it to a single legal issue, a supposedly undocumented nanny, and by pinning it on a single, nonadministration scapegoat, Mr. Kerik's longtime patron, Rudy Giuliani. The president's spokesman at the time, Scott McClellan, told reporters that the White House had had "no reason to believe" that Mr. Kerik lied during his vetting process and that it would be inaccurate to say that process had been rushed.
Thanks to John Solomon and Peter Baker of The Post, we now know that Mr. McClellan's spin was no more accurate than his exoneration of Karl Rove and Scooter Libby in the Wilson leak case. The Kerik vetting process was indeed rushed - by Mr. Gonzales - and the administration had every reason to believe that it was turning over homeland security to a liar. Mr. Gonzales was privy from the get-go to a Kerik dossier ablaze with red flags pointing to "questionable financial deals, an ethics violation, allegations of mismanagement and a top deputy prosecuted for corruption," not to mention a "friendship with a businessman who was linked to organized crime." Yet Mr. Gonzales and the president persisted in shoving Mr. Kerik into the top job of an already troubled federal department encompassing 22 agencies, 180,000 employees and the very safety of America in the post-9/11 era.