Friday, June 15, 2007

Cui bonehead?


I know that the Washington Post is not what it used to be in the days of Woodward and Bernstein. (In fact, Woodward and Bernstein themselves aren't what they used to be in the days of Woodward and Bernstein.) I wonder if the Post has lowered its standards to the point where they might want to sign me up for the Washington Post Writers Group, the newspaper's distribution syndicate. They disseminate Kathleen Parker's opinion column, so the evidence suggests they're ready for any kind of inanity. Parker is the sort of columnist who makes you happy to think that we live in an era that rewards imbecility. If she can be successful, then any of us could be!

The San Francisco Chronicle publishes Parker's column regularly, thus wasting column inches of editorial space and commensurately speeding up my reading of the morning paper. One less item to wade through. This morning, however, something in Parker's column caught my eye. She was slinging a bit of Latin. Parker asked, “Cui bono? Who benefits?” (It was nice of her to provide the translation for her unlettered readers.)

She wanted to know whose fortunes would be boosted by the cashiering of Gen. Peter Pace as chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
In a surprise announcement last week, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that Pace wouldn't be renominated to a second term. In his place, Adm. Mike Mullen, current chief of naval operations, would take over when Pace's term expires Sept. 30.

As the highly qualified, deeply respected Pace is being ushered out the door, it is reasonable to wonder why.
Scratching her head vigorously in puzzlement, Parker ticks off some possibilities. Could it be that the White House feared a contentious confirmation hearing over Iraq war policy in a Senate now controlled by Democrats? Or was it more likely that the Democrats would go after Pace for his Chicago Tribune interview, in which he said he considered homosexuality immoral? Parker will willing to entertain the notion that other factors are at play.
Whether that single remark would cause Pace's removal seems doubtful. Others surmise that his replacement by a Navy admiral is sending a message to the Army to shape up. Mullen has said that one of his first priorities is to upgrade the Army. Still others say the move is a way for the Democratic Congress to further undermine President Bush.
Oh, that makes sense! Peter Pace is being denied a second term as head of the Joint Chiefs in order to give Democrats a chance to hurt Bush. Parker must think that decision-makers in The Decider's administration saw a chance to damage their lame-duck boss. Too bad that neither the president nor Defense Secretary Gates was alert enough to head off the disastrous decision to appoint someone else.

Parker seems not to realize the foolishness of her contention and slogs bravely onward toward another patently idiotic notion. She is quite creative, if only in a thoroughly irrational way:
What we do know is that even in wartime, everything is political. Thus, a better route to understanding may be to pose the question raised by Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness: “Cui bono?” Who benefits?

One doesn't need much of a running start to make the leap to Sen. Hillary Clinton, who also sits on the Armed Services Committee and who, you may have heard, is running for commander in chief. No one benefits more from Pace's removal than Clinton, who would have had to vote for or against the man and be stuck with a position that could hurt her.
Savor this assertion for a moment. It is sublime in its vapidity. Kathleen Parker thinks Hillary Clinton stopped Pace's renomination. You see, blocking Pace redounds to Hillary's benefit. Ergo, she done it!

To be fair to Parker, she did not come up with this nonsense on her own. She's cribbing from Elaine Donnelly, whom she cited in passing as the person who asked the question in Latin. Donnelly suspects Clinton has enough clout on the Senate Armed Services Committee to cause Secretary Gates to cave in on Gen. Pace and instead make an appointment sure to cripple the administration.

I admire Parker's restraint. She thinks that Sen. Clinton has power to cloud men's minds and set White House policies contrary to the president's best interests. Clinton must have moles burrowed deep within the Bush administration, operatives poised to tweak Bush policies in ways that will further undercut the forlorn Commander-in-Chief. It's a wonder that Parker doesn't noisily trumpet this discovery as a huge scoop. Instead, however, she is content to leave it to the reader to draw the painfully obvious inference. Hillary is already running White House policy.

I fear that Parker is merely indulging her febrile Clinton paranoia (or merely echoing Donnelly's). It would cheer me greatly if her deductions were true, because this would imply that Hillary is even more qualified to be chief executive than anyone previously suspected, capable of running rings around the befuddled White House Republicans. Alas, I suspect that Sen. Clinton is merely mortal and that Kathleen Parker is merely stupid.

Let's give the Washington Post columnist the last word as she casts her face into dark shadows with a flashlight held under her chin and intones her ominous conclusion:
There's no telling for now what kind of backroom understandings may have led to Pace's walking orders. Maybe it was really all about a new beginning. But the pained expression on Gates' face and his oblique responses to questions during his news conference suggested something else.

And the Clintons, as always, bear watching.
Eek! Clintons are everywhere! Arrrgghh!

Sorry. I couldn't help myself. Hillary made me do it.


Deep Thought said...

Yeah - what *are* the odds that a very famous Democratic senator and former First Lady on the Armed Services Committee who is running a so-far-successful presidential campaign could have any political clout on Capitol Hill? Especially about the CJCS! I mean, only a raving paranoiac could believe such an outlandish scenario!

Anonymous said...

Oh please, Deep Thought, the *odds* that any Democrat has squashed the Bush administration's choice for the CJCS are very low. Get a grip, man! You cannot successfully evaluate reality if you are blinded by your ideology. Parker's theory is pretty darn unlikely.

Deep Thought said...

Please - this isn't about "ideology" (I don't likt either party) - this is about Zeno glossing over the fact that a single influential member of the majority party in the right senate committee can block the nominations of someone with the support of just 3 or 4 other senators. SO Hillary could, indeed, stop Pace from being confirmed.