“A cowardly way”

If GWB said that he’d rather have Heckuva Job Brownie criticized than take the criticism himself, that was a vulgar thing to say, though not an unreasonable thing to think. But to have an anonymous spokesgeek half-deny it is beneath contempt.

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” &#8212 to use Brown’s lawyer’s description &#8212 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.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

4 thoughts on ““A cowardly way””

  1. Tell your plans to the people…
    Organize a revolution…
    Get the people behind you…

  2. Why really should the White Hosue do this? No one will call them on it. I mean the Presdeint just blatantly lied about Snow beign removed and the press ignores it. Why would something that happened 18 months ago be more scrutinized than something that happened two weeks ago?

  3. Yeah, from this buch that means "that's exactly what happened."
    Remember "there are no plans to invade Iraq on my desk"? (If this wasn't simply an outright lie, then they must have been in his drawer, or on Cheney's desk, or already off his desk and at the Pentagon.)
    The rule with these guys:
    If you ask "Is x true?" and they say "No. Absolutely, categorically not," then x has about a 50/50 chance of being true.
    If you ask "Is x true?" and they do anything other than categorically deny it, then x is true.

  4. Winston Smith's theory fails to explain why they do not categorically deny all truths. He says that, if they categorically deny something, then it has a 50/50 chance of being true. So, if they categorically deny some truths, why not all of them? The only explanation that I can think of for why they didn't deny this one is that the anonymous White House spokesperson was uncomfortable categorically denying something he knew to be true — in other words, he had a smidgen of a conscience. He must have been filling in for a regular spokesperson who was on vacation. Or can someone come up with another explanation?

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