When I read the following words of William Rivers Pitt on our "tiniest president," I think of the saying that if you think size doesn't matter, spend some time in a closed room with a mosquito. This president has done so much damage, and I don't think he is even aware of it. That is what still boggles my mind, and it is what it is, a time for peace.
The Tiniest President
By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Columnist
Wednesday 24 January 2007
George W. Bush delivered his State of the Union address on Tuesday night, and nobody gave a damn.
There was, to be sure, keen public interest directed at Bush's audience for the speech, mostly focused on the woman sitting behind and above him. For the first time in history, the Sergeant-at-Arms announced the arrival of a president before Congress by addressing "Madame Speaker." The mere presence of Nancy Pelosi in that high place, along with the majority crowd of Democrats arrayed across the floor below, at least partially explained the lemon-pucker grimace worn by Vice President Cheney throughout the evening.
The rest of the explanation rolled across the news networks hours before the speech even began: "Attorney Theodore Wells, in the opening statements of I. Lewis Libby's perjury trial," reported the UK Guardian on Tuesday afternoon, "said Libby went to Vice President Dick Cheney in 2003 and complained that the White House was subtly blaming him for leaking Valerie Plame's identity to columnist Robert Novak. 'They're trying to set me up. They want me to be the sacrificial lamb,' Wells said, recalling the conversation between Libby and Cheney. 'I will not be sacrificed so Karl Rove can be protected.'"
Thus blows a hard wind toward this house of cards constructed by the Bush administration. Patrick Fitzgerald is prosecuting Libby in the perjury trial resulting from the Plame CIA leak case, which involves a plot to discredit Plame's husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson. Libby's lawyers, in rebuttal, have painted their client as a patsy, the one expected to take a fall for Cheney and Karl Rove. Neither avenue of this courtroom discourse bodes well for these two men.
Interestingly enough, it was an earlier State of the Union address delivered by Bush that set all the Libby-Cheney-Rove mayhem in motion, an address that also explains why almost nobody on the planet could summon the will to care a whit about what Bush had to say last night.
In January of 2003, Bush stood before the assembled Congress and the American people to deliver another State of the Union address. In that speech, he claimed that Iraq was in possession of 26,000 liters of anthrax, 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin, 500 tons (which equals one million pounds) of sarin, mustard and VX gas, almost 30,000 munitions to deliver the stuff, mobile biological weapons labs, connections to terrorism and the 9/11 attacks, and uranium from Niger for use in a "robust" nuclear weapons program.
This was Bush's final case for the invasion of Iraq, which was subsequently undertaken two months later. That invasion, the continuing occupation, the resulting civil war, the ever-growing list of dead United States soldiers - 3,060 killed to date, with 29 of those having come since the weekend - and the utter absence of the weapons Bush claimed were in Iraq, are the main reasons why Tuesday's address was, for much of the country, little more than an exercise in enunciated hot air.
It was one of those claims - the uranium from Niger for use in Iraq's robust nuclear weapons program, delivered by those now-infamous sixteen words - that landed Libby in hot water, and which is why Mr. Cheney is suddenly looking very much like a wing-clipped quail himself. Ambassador Wilson, having traveled to Niger to investigate the Iraq-uranium story and found no basis for it, was astonished to hear that line in 2003. His July 2004 editorial in the New York Times, which eviscerated the uranium accusation, motivated the White House to try to torpedo his credibility.
They decided to do this by exposing his wife, Valerie Plame, as a deep-cover CIA agent, hoping somehow to paint Wilson as nothing more than an inept bureaucrat who got the Niger gig through wifely nepotism, and therefore not to be believed. When Wilson's accusations proved true, when neither uranium nor anything "robust" was found in Iraq, and when it was revealed that Plame was an NOC (Non-Official Cover) whose job it was to track down illicit WMD, the excrement began flying into the fan. It has been spraying ever since.
This was the remarkable background for Tuesday's address, a speech that was, in the end, an empty exercise. If a measure were needed to gauge Bush's crumbling standing, it could be found in the overwhelming obsequiousness with which he greeted the new Democratic majority, and in his craven pleas for bipartisanship. We got, as well, the usual litany of reasons for continuing and expanding the massacre unleashed by his generational catastrophe in Iraq. The bloody shirt of 9/11 was waved once again. Sabres were rattled against Iran and Syria, again. The word "nukular" made its annual appearance. The word "Katrina" was nowhere to be found.
A few economic and domestic agenda items made a desultory showing before fluttering limply to the plushly-carpeted floor, each failing utterly to accomplish Bush's most desired goal: to divert the conversation away from his manifest and myriad failures. It was, weirdly enough, very much like a Bill Clinton address from the 1990s. Balancing the budget, saving Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, education, health insurance, the environment, global warming, alternative energy sources ... and if you believe he meant any of it, there are bridges for sale all across the country you should check out.
This was a tiny, tepid performance by a tiny man who is shrinking, even now, before our very eyes. Let all the gods that are or ever were be thanked that he only has one more speech to go before history swallows him, before this nation and the world is faced with the grueling challenge of cleaning up all the bloody messes he has made.
William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know and The Greatest Sedition Is Silence. His newest book, House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America's Ravaged Reputation, will be available this winter from PoliPointPress.