AUSTIN, Texas – Of course I am above sex, drugs and rock n’ roll. So serious a servant of the public interest am I, I can fogey with the best: On my better days, I make David Broder look like Page Six.
I don’t care what anyone smoked 20 years ago, I approve of those who boogie til they puke, and I don’t care who anyone in politics is screwing in private, as long as they’re not screwing the public.
On other hand, if you expect me to pass up a scandal involving poker, hookers and the Watergate building with crooked defense contractors and the No. 3 guy at the CIA, named Dusty Foggo (Dusty Foggo?! Be still my heart), you expect too much. Any journalist who claims Hookergate is not a legitimate scandal is dead – has been for some time and needs to be unplugged. In addition to sex, drugs and rock n’ roll, Hookergate is rife with public-interest questions, misfeasance, malfeasance and non-feasance, and many splendid moral points for the children. Recommended for Sunday school use, grades seven and above.
But for starters, let us consider the unenviable record of Porter Goss at the CIA. From the beginning of his tenure, Goss has been criticized for politicizing the agency. He brought a bunch of political hacks with him for staff, one of whom turns out to be the poker player called “Nine Fingers.” And in the end, he was likely fired for not having politicized the agency sufficiently.
What is the point of politicizing an intelligence agency? So the CIA officials would get a report from some agent in Iraq saying, “Looks bad.” The first thing they’d ask was, “Is this agent a Republican or a Democrat?”
Maybe there really are conservatives who believe everything in Iraq is hunky-dory and there’s a giant media conspiracy to hide the joyous tidings. But as you may recall, the ever-nimble minds at Donny Rumsfeld’s shop have already tried paying public relations people to invent good news about Iraq and then plant it in newspapers there – it didn’t work.
In fact, it was so stupid it was humiliating. Fortunately, the Pentagon was once again able to investigate itself and determine it had done nothing illegal.
So now they’re turning the CIA over to a general who not only ran the warrantless wiretap program, but still can’t figure out that it’s unconstitutional. Why do I get the feeling this is W. and Karl again flipping the finger at some grown-up they don’t like?
Hayden had mixed reviews as director of the National Security Agency – he’s evidently not a good manager, which makes him a perfect Bushie. But is he straightforward enough to have admitted some warrantless spying has been done for political reasons? None of the usual Washington insiders seems to have a bead on this. Hayden would theoretically report to John Negroponte, Bush’s supposed intelligence czar. Negroponte is widely considered worthless. His major achievement so far seems to be organizational charts and buying furniture.
You know me, no conspiracy theories here, but the Bush administration, which doesn’t seem to be able to run much, set out to retool the CIA after 9-11 and the Iraq War. Problem is, everything that worked at the CIA – that it warned about 9-11 and said the Iraq War was a bad idea – was on the hit list. The Bushies wanted to eliminate the people who were right and promote those who were wrong. This is no way to shape up an intelligence agency, not to mention the White House spit fit over Joe Wilson’s wife.
Next, we need to contemplate sincere, old-fashioned, nonideological greed, theft and bribery. In the beginning, there was only Duke Cunningham, the high-living, fun-loving superpatriot congressman from San Diego. His yacht was called “The Duke-Stir,” and he had nice taste in 19th-century French commodes. While we are all happy to see our elected representatives enjoying themselves in Washington, that’s real people’s money. Actually, the yacht and commode were paid for by Brent Wilkes (keep an eye on that player), the crooked defense contractor. It was people’s money that paid for the defense contracts Wilkes bribed public officials into landing for his clients.
The former inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security, Clark Kent Ervin – that would be the DHS equivalent of a police department’s internal affairs chief – tried to blow the whistle on shady contracts at DHS and instead was thrown overboard himself. Folks, we’ll never get government straightened out again if we don’t keep the IGs strong and independent.
If the Bush administration continues to fall apart at this clip, I think we’ll be grateful for incompetence as an excuse.
Molly Ivins is a syndicated columnist.