The only way for journalists to cover the Bush White House these days is to view it through Alice’s Looking Glass. Suddenly, all the familiar images appear reversed. Clocks are running backwards. Outcomes are preceding events. And Tweedledum and Tweedledee are big in the news.
A reversal of images: The battle royal that has erupted over President Bush’s selection of Harriet Miers to be a Supreme Court justice has gone topsy-turvy. Battles over court nominations have become routine, even expected, in Washington. But this one is backwards.
It’s the conservatives who are attacking from the far right, as pundits and pols are leading one of the most scathing attacks ever seen against a Supreme Court nominee. And it’s the liberals who surprisingly rushed to defend from the far left. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md. _ perhaps the Senate’s most stalwart defender of women’s rights, including the right to choose whether to have an abortion _ characterized the conservative attacks upon Miers as sexist and even elitist because the Dallas attorney and ultimate Bush insider got her law degree from Southern Methodist University, rather than Harvard.
Maybe we all should have seen it coming. After all, this problem began when Bush took what is for him a rare move indeed. He actually consulted with a few Democrats before deciding. Falling in the polls, beset by failures foreign and domestic and wanting most of all to avoid yet another nomination battle, our Republican president selected the person who was recommended to him by the Senate’s leading Democrat, Harry Reid of Nevada. (The only thing of which we can be sure in this is that Reid, who is something of a political plodder, could not possibly have had the requisite twitching political antennae to sense the great Grand Old Party mess he’d set up for the president.)
Now, Mikulski was not alone in defending Miers; but she can hardly like the Looking Glass reality that has her paired up with the likes of the Rev. James C. Dobson, a leading Christian conservative, who put himself deliberately at cross purposes as he gave his own special assurance that he has been assured that Miers will vote precisely the way Mikulski will hate on abortion rights: to reverse Roe v. Wade.
Dobson said he had talked with the eminent Bush super-strategist Karl Rove (more on him later) and then said: “When you know some of the things that I know _ that I probably shouldn’t know _ you will understand why I have said, with fear and trepidation, that Harriet Miers will be a good justice.” He went on to explain that he was sure he was right because he did not want to have on his hands “the blood of those babies that will die.”
Which means that when Bush says he never “sat down” with Miers to ask her views on abortion, his words can mean precisely what he says they mean. He didn’t because he didn’t have to because Rove probably did, as the White House is now desperately trying to convey with a wink, a blink and a nod.
Clocks are running backwards and outcomes are preceding events: This president told the world he was launching a war to get the weapons of mass destruction out of Iraq. And lo, today there are no WMDs in Iraq. So, viewed from inside the Looking Glass, it must be that the war achieved its desired result. Outside the Looking Glass, quibblers note that the experts concluded there were no WMDs there in the first place.
Also, the president warned us that Saddam Hussein’s Iraq had sought to get yellow-cake uranium from Niger. After that, the CIA sent an emissary who said there was no evidence to support this. Outside the Looking Glass, it is usually done the other way _ check first, announce after.
Finally, Tweedledum and Tweedledee (see also: the Rovester and the Scooter): Rove and Lewis (Scooter) Libby, chief of staff to Vice President Cheney, have been embroiled in the probe about how a CIA secret agent’s identity was revealed. While there is no indication as to what if any action will be taken by the special prosecutor on the case, Rove at least has done what he was said to have assured the president he had not done: He reportedly told the president he hadn’t talked to reporters about agent Valerie Plame. Now it is known that he did.
So it is that inside the Looking Glass, things get curiouser and curiouser.
(Martin Schram writes political analysis for Scripps Howard News Service. E-mail him at martin.schram(at)gmail.com.)