Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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February 4, 2010

HEADS I WIN, TAILS YOU LOSE.... When it comes to the Abdulmuttalab case, Republicans have been outraged. They argued, without getting their facts straight, that Obama administration officials failed to properly interrogate the attempted terrorist, read him his rights too quickly, and failed to acquire valuable intelligence.

Republicans, we now know, were completely wrong. Indeed, to set the record straight and prove how demonstrably ridiculous the GOP claims have been, the Obama administration provided ample evidence yesterday that Abdulmuttalab has been interrogated and has also provided valuable, actionable information.

And wouldn't you know it, Republicans have now adapted their complaints to whine about the administration correcting bogus GOP claims.

In a hearing with Director of National Intelligence, Dennis Blair, Republicans on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence questioned the timing of the disclosure and accused the White House of "political cover."

"I do find it an interesting strategy that we hastily call a briefing to let America and our friends and our enemies in the Middle East know that he's now singing like a canary," said Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich., the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee.

"I can't think of a reason why that would happen other than political cover," charged Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas.

Let me get this straight. Congressional Republicans (1) complain about something that isn't true; and (2) complain again when confronted with evidence of their mistake.

There should be some kind of rule or something: the liar doesn't get to whine after having been exposed as a liar.

White House Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton was asked yesterday about the release of Abdulmuttalab information, and told reporters that officials wanted to let the public "know that we're doing everything possible to keep the American people safe."

As for the GOP's bizarre rhetoric, Burton added, "[B]efore, there was criticism from Republicans that what we were doing wasn't working. Now that people find out that what we're doing is working, they're criticizing the fact that we're saying that what's working is working."

Our discourse sure is frustrating sometimes.

Steve Benen 8:30 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (25)

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Proper White House response: "There are Neanderthals out there who are hell bent on spreading misinformation at every conceivable point in time. And there isn't a functional media in place to call those bastards on their BS. So, yes, the task has fallen to us to correct the record."

Posted by: Chopin on February 4, 2010 at 8:44 AM | PERMALINK

There should be some kind of rule or something: the liar doesn't get to whine after having been exposed as a liar.

Yeah, Steve. I'm sure our so-called "liberal media" will get right on that.

Posted by: Gregory on February 4, 2010 at 8:45 AM | PERMALINK

Who woulda thunk that we'd see the day that the GOP was adamently opposed to the president declassifying information to show success in the war on terror. Wasn't Cheney even overtly proud of that practice when interviewed?

Posted by: Keith on February 4, 2010 at 8:54 AM | PERMALINK

What I enjoy most is that we on the left seem surprised--or disgusted--by these games. The Republicans know how to act like an opposition party. It's so unfair. We're way too incompetent to know how to do that.

Posted by: gussie on February 4, 2010 at 8:56 AM | PERMALINK

Nobody believes the democrats on national security issues because everyone knows about their disdain for the Pledge of Allegiance.

Posted by: Al on February 4, 2010 at 9:00 AM | PERMALINK

Steve, our political discourse is always frustrating.

And by being frustrated, we're labeled as angry and unserious, thus completing the perfect circle of inanity that passes for politics in this civilzed, 21st-century culture.

Posted by: terraformer on February 4, 2010 at 9:01 AM | PERMALINK

Where are the Cheneys?
I am sure they know something we don't know.

Posted by: apeman on February 4, 2010 at 9:02 AM | PERMALINK

All I can say is god help us if those morons ever return to power in this country. Not only are they liars but they're completely inept at everything except getting elected. Whether you agree with the repub dogma or not you have to admit that they're incompetant at running a country.

Posted by: Gandalf on February 4, 2010 at 9:06 AM | PERMALINK

I am only surprised that I am still surprised.

Posted by: the seal on February 4, 2010 at 9:08 AM | PERMALINK

gussie said:
The Republicans know how to act like an opposition party.

Yeah -- like al qaeda.

Both groups are fanatically devoted to their dogmatic ideology. Both groups will say or do anything to reach their warped vision of how the world will be. And both groups don't care the least bit how many innocent people die as a result of their actions.

Posted by: SteveT on February 4, 2010 at 9:08 AM | PERMALINK

gussie -- what have you internalized? why should we act like an opposition party? democrats have majorities in both houses and the president.

Posted by: Rathskeller on February 4, 2010 at 9:11 AM | PERMALINK

Rule of Law. Just yesterday I heard Susan Collins (one of their "moderates") make a full throated attack on the rule of law. The rule of law and with it the freedom and individual liberty it supports, are all that separates us from being the subjects of some tinhorn dictator. Democrats have to go on an offensive in support of the rule of law. Republicans want to throw out a thousand years of bloody history from the Magna Carta, to the Declaration of Independence, to the Constitution of the United States, because Frank Luntz thinks fear is the only way they can regain power.

Day in day out we have to remind people that the rule of law is essential to all Americans. Once some official in Washington gets to decide who is entitled to a fair trial and who isn't, nobody is and all of our freedoms are forfeit.

You want to really turn things on their head, remind everybody that one of the freedoms the Reublicans would strip from us in the name of fear is the second amendment right to bear arms.

Posted by: Ron Byers on February 4, 2010 at 9:24 AM | PERMALINK

Of course they're criticizing that the government is saying that it's working, after they criticized it for not working.

It makes perfect sense in their world. See, they have to be free to make vaguely plausible but unfalsifiable complaints about the government, so they have to (try and) stop people pointing out their initial criticism is bulldust. That way no-one can actually tell people how wrong they are.

That...and because reality has a well-known anti-GOP bias.

Posted by: Lotharsson on February 4, 2010 at 9:27 AM | PERMALINK

But they are too busy creating and living in their own reality. Where up is down, black is white, and facts are only fact when they support the GOP position.

Posted by: ET on February 4, 2010 at 9:27 AM | PERMALINK

if the repbulicans didn't have anything to lie about or whine about we'd never hear from them.
which wouldn't be the worst thing in the world.

Posted by: mellowjohn on February 4, 2010 at 9:28 AM | PERMALINK

Sadly, Al's comment rings true with people in, what victimized conservatives call, "fly over country".

As far as Hoekstra and Mac Thornberry's bullshit, I get the game. Point and scream that Democrats are pussies and terrorist coddlers and then accuse them of being sloppy for divulging information. Cute. The problem is that this political kabuki is fucking dangerous. If the so called masters of national security feel there is a genuine problem with a defense issue, they need to quietly express those concerns. Grandstanding before the public, and worse, the terrorists is unequivocally anti-American.

And no that isn't the same as Democrats crying foul during the Bush administration. Bitching about how a terrorist is being handled exactly the same way as Bush handled Reid is worlds different than questioning the flakey motives for invading Iraq, or no-bid contracts to Halliburton, or internationally illegal torture practices.

Posted by: oh my on February 4, 2010 at 9:42 AM | PERMALINK

Notice too how the forum of the GOP's complaint has shifted. It used to be about legitimate national security concerns -- did the administration spoil a good source of intel by reading Underpants Guy his Miranda Rights? Now, the GOP is on purely partisan turf -- huffily accusing the administration of making up tall tales just to ruin a perfectly good GOP talking point against Demcorats.

As typical inside baseball goes this stuff is pretty tedious. But it does serve as an important window into what really matters to the Republican Party these days.

You would think, given Republican hysteria about the administration allegedly burning an intelligence asset over a fussy obsession with civil liberties, that Republicans would be relieved and delighted to hear that, no, far from clamming up, Underpants Guy is singing like a canary.

But they're not. Instead, Republicans are pissed, really pissed, and they are lashing out by making all sorts of baseless and reckless accusations that the administration is just covering itself by making stuff up.

It's what I've been saying since the 2002 mid-term elections when Karl Rove and George Bush deliberately divided the nation into hostile partisan camps on the very eve of sending an American army into Harms Way -- something no other president had ever done before, since national unity in time of war plays such an important part in ultimate victory: Republicans simply don't take governance seriously.

This is the bitter fruit of the difference between the "reality-based" and "faith-based" communities we used to talk so much about. A Republican Party in the clutches of an ideological and religiously-oriented base simply does not take policy seriously as a separate concern -- apart from the potential of individual policies to make right wing populism and nationalism America's ruling mindset.

The Iraq War was more difficult to fight than it needed to be because Rove and Bush tried to use support for war and our troops against Democrats to win a few more GOP seats. As a result, instead of being able to ask for Democratic support when the insurgency grew deadlier by the month, George Bush was forced to "stay the course" in a losing war strategy for fear that adjusting to changing conditions on the ground would signal "mistakes" that could be used against him politically by the embittered Democratic opposition that Rove and Bush's greedy and mindless partisanship had deliberately created.

Let's be clear. This is not "politics as usual." Real flesh and blood American soldiers paid with their lives for this needless and tragic partisanship. And we should not forget that fact, or continue repeating that error.

Posted by: Ted Frier on February 4, 2010 at 10:06 AM | PERMALINK

The fundamental problem is not with the message, it's the messenger. If the media marginalized these morons (like they do to UFOlogists and Larouchites, for example) then we'd not have these have-you-stopped-beating-your-wife strawmen.

shoot the messenger

Posted by: cp1919 on February 4, 2010 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

the liar doesn't get to whine after having been exposed as a liar.

It's what they do; it's who they are.


"Republicans took a big steaming dump on the US economy but blame Dems for the smell"

Posted by: eightnine2718281828mu5 on February 4, 2010 at 11:20 AM | PERMALINK

...and yet it was perfectly acceptable to the gullible public during the Bush years for the administration to reveal NOTHING about the interrogation of prisoners - oops, detainees -held either domestically or abroad. Bush would get up in front of the podium when he felt like strutting, not when public demand pressed him, and say the government was getting "actionable intelligence", or some such guff. If you pushed for any more detail than that, you were crossing the invisible National Security can't-tell-you-or-I'd-have-to-kill-you line.

I have yet to see Obama invoke National Security in order to dodge something he doesn't particularly want to answer, but I'm sure it would be unacceptable if he did. Democratic presidents are simply held to a different standard that Republicans - everyone seems to accept in advance that they will be a liar, a crook, or both.

Posted by: Mark on February 4, 2010 at 11:22 AM | PERMALINK

The liar are NEVER exposed as "liars".

The Democrats had a great oportunity to brand the Republicans as "liars" after 8 years of Bush et al.'s compulsive lying. But no major Democrat ever gets pissed and makes the credible case that the Republicans are "liars." David Broder might get upset.

Posted by: The Fool on February 4, 2010 at 12:17 PM | PERMALINK

Some of the commenters are missing the thrust of the latest Republican complaint.

They are saying that because the administration has publicly announced that they are getting useful intelligence from Abdulmutallab, they are giving his Al-Qaeda handlers advance warning to get anyone he can rat out under cover.

This accusation may have some merit. It also may not, since if Al-Qaeda has any intelligence at all, they would have assumed in advance that anything Abdulmutallab knew was likely to be compromised.

But by making the accusation at all, Republicans completely ignore and hope the American public will completely ignore their culpability. There would have been no reason for the administration to talk about what information if any they are getting from Abdulmutallab if the Republicans hadn't been making shit up in order to attack the President.

Posted by: tanstaafl on February 4, 2010 at 5:43 PM | PERMALINK

Seriously thought, it continues to piss me off that we are even having this conversation.

Abdulmutallab, like Richard Reid before him, failed miserably in a way that should have made him a laughinstock. Reid tried to blow up a plane and instead gave himself a hotfoot. Abdulmutallab tried to blow up a plane and set his crotch on fire!

The proper respone should have been to arrest him, quietly interrogate him, quiely follow up on any information we get from him, quietly fix any security holes that were revealed by him getting on the plane in the first place and then quietly convict him and put him in prison for a long, long time.

Ideally, a few years down the road, the only memory the world would have of him is as the tag line of a joke and Al-Qaeda would find it harder and harder to recruit suicide bombers for attacks on/in the U.S. if they couldn't even hope for a decent martyrdom.

Instead, thanks to the Republicans, he is a boogy-man who frightens us into spending hundreds of millions of dollars on scanners of questionable utility and considerable embarrassment potential for every traveler, who is front page news for weeks on end and who is costing the President of the United States considerable political capital.

Thus, instead of pretending they had nothing to do with this attack, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and Osama Bin Laden have both claimed it as their own and promised more of the same.

Why are the Republicans making us less safe? and why won't anyone in the Democratic Party or the so-called-liberal-press frame it that way?

Posted by: tanstaafl on February 4, 2010 at 6:03 PM | PERMALINK

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