March 14, 2010
By FRANK RICH
Now the revisionist floodgates have opened with the simultaneous arrival of Karl Rove’s memoir and Keep America Safe, a new right-wing noise machine invented by Dick Cheney’s daughter Liz and the inevitable William Kristol. This gang’s rewriting of history knows few bounds. To hear them tell it, 9/11 was so completely Bill Clinton’s fault that it retroactively happened while he was still in office. The Bush White House is equally blameless for the post-9/11 resurgence of the Taliban, Al Qaeda and
Could any of this non-reality-based shtick stick? So far the answer is No. Rove’s book and Keep America Safe could be the best political news for the White House in some time. This new eruption of misinformation and rancor vividly reminds Americans why they couldn’t wait for Bush and Cheney to leave
But the old regime’s attack squads are relentless and shameless. The Obama administration, which put the brakes on any new investigations into Bush-Cheney national security malfeasance upon taking office, will sooner or later have to strike back. Once the Bush-Cheney failures in
There’s a good reason why Rove’s memoir is titled “Courage and Consequence,” not “Truth or Consequences.” Its spin is so uninhibited that even “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job!” is repackaged with an alibi. The book’s apolitical asides are as untrustworthy as its major events. For all Rove’s self-proclaimed expertise as a student of history, he writes that eight American presidents assumed office “as a result of the assassination or resignation of their predecessor.” (He’s off by only three.) After a peculiar early narrative detour to combat reports of his late adoptive father’s homosexuality, Rove burnishes his family values cred with repeated references to his own happy heterosexual domesticity. This, too, is a smoke screen: Readers learned months before the book was published that his marriage ended in divorce.
Rove’s overall thesis on the misbegotten birth of the Iraq war is a stretch even by his standards. “Would the
Rove and his book are yesterday. Keep America Safe is on the march. Liz Cheney’s crackpot hit squad achieved instant notoriety with its viral video demanding the names of Obama Justice Department officials who had served as pro bono defense lawyers for
This McCarthyism has not advanced nearly so far as the original brand. Among those who have called out Keep America Safe for its indecent impugning of honorable Americans’ patriotism are Kenneth Starr, Lindsey Graham and former Bush administration lawyers in the conservative Federalist Society. When even the relentless pursuer of Monicagate is moved to call a right-wing jihad “out of bounds,” as Starr did in this case, that’s a fairly good indicator that it’s way off in crazyland.
This is hardly the only recent example of Republicans’ distancing themselves from the Cheney mob. The new conservative populist insurgency regards the Bush administration as a skunk at its Tea Parties and has no use for its costly foreign adventures. One principal Tea Party forum, the Freedom Works Web site presided over by Dick Armey, doesn’t even mention national security in a voluminous manifesto on “key issues” as far-flung as Internet taxes and asbestos lawsuit reform. Ron Paul won the straw poll at last month’s Conservative Political Action Conference after giving a speech calling the Bush doctrine of “preventive war” a euphemism for “aggressive” and “unconstitutional” war. Paul’s son, Rand, who has said he would not have voted for the Iraq invasion, is leading the polls in Kentucky’s G.O.P. Senate primary and has been endorsed by Sarah Palin.
In this spectrum, the Keep America Safe crowd is a fringe. But it still must be challenged. As we’ve learned the hard way, little fictions, whether about “death panels” or “uranium from Africa,” can grow mighty fast in the 24/7 media echo chamber. Liz Cheney’s unsupportable charges are not quarantined in the Murdoch empire. Her chummy off-camera relationship with a trio of network news stars, reported last week by Joe Hagan in
What could yet give some traction to the Keep America Safe revisionism is the backdrop against which it is unfolding: an Iraq election with an uncertain and possibly tumultuous outcome; the escalation of the war in
Obama may well make — or is already making — his own mistakes. And he will bear responsibility for them. But they must be seen in the context of the larger narrative that the revisionists are now working so hard to obscure. The most devastating terrorist attack on American soil did happen during Bush’s term, after the White House repeatedly ignored what the former C.I.A. director, George Tenet, called the “blinking red” alarms before 9/11. It was the Bush defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, who lost bin Laden in Tora Bora, not the Obama Justice Department appointees vilified by Keep America Safe. It was Bush and Cheney, with the aid of Rove’s propaganda campaign, who promoted sketchy and often suspect intelligence about Saddam’s imminent “mushroom clouds.” The ensuing
Last month, no less reliable a source than Gen. Ray Odierno, the senior American commander in Iraq, warned that Chalabi was essentially functioning as an open Iranian agent on the eve of Iraq’s election, meeting with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and other Iranian officials to facilitate Iran’s influence over Iraq after the voting. (Dexter Filkins of The Times reported on Chalabi’s ties to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2006.) As the vote counting began last week, fears grew that he could be the monkey wrench who corrupts the entire process. It’s no surprise that Chalabi, so beloved by Bush that he appeared as an honored guest at the 2004 State of the Union, receives not a single mention in Rove’s memoir.
If we are really to keep America safe, it’s essential we remember exactly which American politicians empowered Iran, Al Qaeda and the Taliban from 2001 to 2008, and why. History will be repeated not only if we forget it, but also if we let it be rewritten by those whose ideological zealotry and boneheaded decisions have made
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs