Look, it’s no surprise that George W. Bush was happy to hang Heckuva Job Brownie out to dry over Katrina. If the President really said of Brown “I’d rather they beat up on him than me or Chertoff,” the surprise is only that he said it out loud: saying it makes it too obvious that Bush’s famous obsession with “loyalty” is entirely a one-way street. But that he, and his political handlers, would think that it was better for the lower-ranking guy to take the media hit is really pretty obvious.
What’s truly “cowardly” — to use Brown’s lawyer’s description — isn’t helping the sh** roll downhill, but the refusal, now that the word has leaked out, to own up to it. An anonymous White House spokesperson emailed the following non-denial denial to CNN:
This is an old rumor that surfaced months ago and we’re not commenting on it. This story has already been reported and I have heard nothing at all that would substantiate it.
Now that simply won’t do. Either the President said what Brown’s White House source says he said, at a Cabinet meeting, or he didn’t. (Note that although Brown redacted the sender’s name, the email to Brown came from “eop.gov”: i.e., from the White House.) Brown’s account even gives the date; others present would remember.
If Bush didn’t say those words, the White House presumably would deny them outright. To call the account “rumor” and then say “I have heard nothing at all that would substantiate it” is just a fancy, and unconvincing, way of telling a lie.
Plato was right; being ruled by your (moral) inferiors is a drag.