WASHINGTON -- Andrew Roberts, the distinguished British historian, is in town, discussing his stupendous new book, A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900, which picks up where Winston Churchill's similarly named history left off, at the beginning of the 20th century. Debonair and abounding with optimism about the English-speaking peoples -- within the Anglosphere as it is called -- Roberts is meeting with a wide array of local luminaries. He is having lunch at the White House with the President, who read his history with enthusiasm and jotted a note to him in London. There are numerous receptions for him, at one of which I ran into one of modern American conservatism's giants, Irving Kristol, who wryly observed, "Washington may not be a Christian city, but it certainly has an appetite for crucifixions."
He has that right. Consider agonies inflicted on the Vice President's former chief of staff Scooter Libby. At the cost of a king's ransom Libby has been prosecuted for a lie that no sensible person would utter.
Or consider the ongoing travail of former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith.
We have all been told that the arrival of the Democratic majority would mean -- to employ a word now popular in the press -- a surge of congressional investigations despite the exigencies of war, two wars actually: war on terror and war in Iraq and Afghanistan. The British, as Roberts would tell you, were wary of investigating their execution of World War II even after its conclusion for fear of the worldwide propaganda boons such investigations might hand Britain's enemies, for instance, the Soviets and various colonial movements. On this both of Britain's main political parties agreed.
Here our Democrats live in such a partisan frenzy to discredit their political rivals that they care not at all about world politics. Thus they are hounding a Republican government despite the comfort doing so gives our enemies and the distraction it imposes on the government from execution of the war. Feith is their present victim. His chief tormentors are Senators Carl Levin and Jay Rockefeller.
The Democrats employ two tactics to ensnare their victims. First they embroil a government official or Republican appointee in a series of tricky questions before a Congressional Committee. The victim may get through the hearing nicely, but then the Democrats raise questions about the accuracy or even truthfulness of some remote area of his testimony. Hesto presto, he is a perjurer.
Their second tactic is to raise questions about some bureaucratic action. Call for an Inspector General to investigate the government bureau. When the Inspector General's report comes out, whether the report exonerates the government or not, alight on it as evidence of still more government foul play and mendacity.
In Feith's case, an Inspector General was summoned to investigate the Undersecretary of Defense's review of the intelligence community's appraisal of Saddam Hussein's pre-war relationship to terrorists. Democrats and various persons in the intelligence community had charged that Feith's review was not "authorized" or "lawful," and that his testimony had been "misleading." The subsequent Inspector General's report exonerated Feith on all counts. This accorded with a 2004 Senate Select Intelligence Committee's finding that Feith's actions had been by the book. Unfortunately, the Inspector General's report threw in the gratuitous observation that some of Feith's actions were "inappropriate." Aha! Now the Democrats wish to haul Feith back before them to grill him on this charge. Their goal will be to catch him up in with tricky questioning -- back to tactic numero uno and with any luck they can claim that yet another Bush adviser lied to them. These are the tactics that have allowed them to characterize the whole administration as mendacious.
That Democrats such as Levin and Rockefeller would become so exercised over lying is, may I say, brazenly hypocritical. Their recent political leader, Bill Clinton, and their rising leader, Hillary, are two of the most inveterate liars in American political history. What was it that their former friend, David Geffen, recently said of them? Did he say they lied with "such ease" it was "troubling"?
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