(Copyright 2003 The Blacklisted Journalist) 

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Subject: Article: Nino's Op?ra Bouffe
Date: Sun, 29 Jun 2003 09:24:15 -0500 (EST)

June 29, 2003

Nino's Op?ra Bouffe


WASHINGTON " Antonin Scalia fancies himself the intellectual of the Supreme Court, an aesthete who likes opera and wines, a bon vivant who loves poker and plays songs like "It's a Grand Old Flag" on the piano; a real man who hunts and reads Ducks Unlimited magazine; a Catholic father of nine who once told a prayer breakfast: "We are fools for Christ's sake. We must pray for the courage to endure the scorn of the sophisticated world."

Like other conservatives, he enjoys acting besieged while belittling the other side. "Alas," he drily told the journalist Hanna Rosin, "being tough and traditional is a heavy cross to bear. Duresse oblige."

He's so Old School, he's Old Testament, misty over the era when military institutes did not have to accept women, when elite schools did not have to make special efforts with blacks, when a gay couple in their own bedroom could be clapped in irons, when women were packed off to Our Lady of Perpetual Abstinence Home for Unwed Mothers.

He relishes eternal principles, like helping a son of the establishment dispense with the messiness of a presidential vote count. (His wife met him at the door after Bush v. Gore with a chilled martini.)

He's an American archetype, or Archie type. Full of blustery rants against modernity and nostalgia for "the way Glenn Miller played, songs that made the hit parade . . . girls were girls and men were men." Antonin Scalia is Archie Bunker in a high-backed chair. Like Archie, Nino is the last one to realize that his intolerance is risibly out-of-date.

The court issued a bracing 6-to-3 decision declaring it illegitimate to punish people for who they are, and Justice Scalia fulminated in a last gasp of the old Pat Buchanan/Bill Bennett homophobic conservatism.

In his dissent to the decision striking down a Texas sodomy law and declaring that gays are "entitled to respect for their private lives," Justice Scalia raved that the court had "largely signed on to the so-called homosexual agenda" and predicted a "massive disruption of the current social order." (Has this man never seen a Rupert Everett movie?)

State laws could tumble, he huffed, barring masturbation. Next, Sister Scalia will tell us it makes you go blind. He also tut-tutted that laws against bestiality might fall away. (Maybe he should be warning fellow dissenter Clarence Thomas. Anita Hill told Congress he had been beastly to her by describing an X-rated film about bestiality.)

The stegosaurus Scalia roared that the court had "taken sides in the culture war." Conservatives shrieked the door was open to everything from lap dancing to gay marriage. (Note to the panicked right: Newsweek just reported married heterosexuals were strangers to sex. So, if you want gay couples to stop having sex, let them get married.)

Mr. Scalia has frothed about Kulturkampf since 1996, when he did an Archie screed on gays having "high disposable income" and "disproportionate political power." Sounds just like people at Bush fund-raisers. (One here Friday was headlined by the First Nephew, George P. Bush, to buck-rake for a group promoting conservative court nominees.)

Most Americans, even Republicans, have a more tolerant and happy vision of the country than Mr. Scalia and other nattering nabobs of negativism. Their jeremiads yearn for an airbrushed 50's America that never really existed. (The pedophile scandal in the Catholic Church, which condemns homosexuality, proves that.) And the America they feared " everyone having orgies, getting stoned and burning the flag " never came to pass.

Nino is too blinded by his own bloviation to notice that Americans are not as censorious as he is. They like the complicated national mosaic " that Dick Cheney has a gay daughter, that Jeb Bush has a Latina wife, that Clarence Thomas has a white wife. Newt Gingrich can leave two wives for younger women and Bill (Virtues) Bennett can blow $8 million on slot machines. Even those who did not like Bill Clinton cringed at Ken Starr's giddy voyeurism.

Justice Scalia may play patriotic songs on the piano, but Justice Anthony Kennedy gave patriotism true meaning in time for the Fourth of July. His ruling eloquently reminded the country, "Liberty presumes an autonomy of self that includes freedom of thought, belief, expression, and certain intimate conduct."

In the immortal words of John Riggins, loosen up, Nino, baby.  

               Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company  ##

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Subject: Article: National House of Waffles
Date: Sun, 13 Jul 2003 09:24:15 -0500 (EST)

July 13, 2003

National House of Waffles


WASHINGTON - More and more, with Bush administration pronouncements about the Iraq war, it depends on what the meaning of the word "is" is.

W. built his political identity on the idea that he was not Bill Clinton. He didn't parse words or prevaricate. He was the Texas straight shooter.

So why is he now presiding over a completely Clintonian environment, turning the White House into a Waffle House, where truth is camouflaged by word games and responsibility is obscured by shell games?

The president and Condi Rice can shuffle the shells and blame George Tenet, but it smells of mendacity.

Mr. Clinton indulged in casuistry to hide personal weakness. The Bush team indulges in casuistry to perpetuate its image of political steel.

Dissembling over peccadilloes is pathetic. Dissembling over pre-emptive strikes is pathological, given over 200 Americans dead and 1,000 wounded in Iraq, and untold numbers of dead Iraqis. Our troops are in "a shooting gallery," as Teddy Kennedy put it, and our spy agencies warn that we are on the cusp of a new round of attacks by Saddam snipers.

Why does it always come to this in Washington? The people who ascend to power on the promise of doing things differently end up making the same unforced errors their predecessors did. Out of office, the Bush crowd mocked the Clinton propensity for stonewalling; in office, they have stonewalled the 9/11 families on the events that preceded the attacks, and the American public on how - and why - they maneuvered the nation into the Iraqi war.

Their defensive crouch and obsession with secrecy are positively Nixonian. (But instead of John Dean and an aggressive media, they have Howard Dean and a cowed media.)

In a hole, the president should have done some plain speaking: "The information I gave you in the State of the Union about Iraq seeking nuclear material from Africa has been revealed to be false. I'm deeply angry and I'm going to get to the bottom of this."

But of course he couldn't say that. He would be like Sheriff Bart in "Blazing Saddles," holding the gun to his own head and saying, "Nobody move or POTUS gets it." The Bush administration has known all along that the evidence of the imminent threat of Saddam's weapons and the Al Qaeda connections were pumped up. They were manning the air hose.

Mr. Tenet, in his continuing effort to ingratiate himself to his bosses, agreed to take the fall, trying to minimize a year's worth of war-causing warping of intelligence as a slip of the keyboard. "These 16 words should never have been included in the text written for the president," he said, in 15 words that were clearly written for him on behalf of the president. But it won't fly.

It was Ms. Rice's responsibility to vet the intelligence facts in the president's speech and take note of the red alert the tentative Tenet was raising. Colin Powell did when he set up camp at the C.I.A. for a week before his U.N. speech, double-checking what he considered unsubstantiated charges that the Cheney chief of staff, Scooter Libby, and other hawks wanted to sluice into his talk.

When the president attributed the information about Iraq trying to get Niger yellowcake to British intelligence, it was a Clintonian bit of flim-flam. Americans did not know what top Bush officials knew: that this "evidence" could not be attributed to American intelligence because the C.I.A. had already debunked it.

Ms. Rice did not throw out the line, even though the C.I.A. had warned her office that it was sketchy. Clearly, a higher power wanted it in.

And that had to be Dick Cheney's office. Joseph Wilson, former U.S. ambassador to Gabon, said he was asked to go to Niger to answer some questions from the vice president's office about that episode and reported back that it was highly doubtful.

But doubt is not the currency of the Bush hawks. Asked if he regretted using the Niger claim, Mr. Bush replied: "There is no doubt in my mind that Saddam Hussein was a threat to world peace. And there's no doubt in my mind that the United States, along with allies and friends, did the right thing in removing him from power. And there's no doubt in my mind, when it's all said and done, the facts will show the world the truth."

I'm happy that Mr. Bush's mental landscape is so cloudless. But it is our doubts he needs to assuage.

 Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company  ##

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