By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
To be fair, most leftists don‘t think of Castro as a great leader nor do they buy into primitivist guff about how Cubans are ennobled by not having the freedoms and material possessions that we enjoy -- you try pedaling to work on one of those clunky iron bicycles. Yet I still have far too many conversations like the one I recently had at a cocktail party honoring Gore Vidal. I was telling an old friend that, if I were being honest, I’d have to say that authoritarian, hypercapitalist Singapore is an incomparably freer and better-run nation than Cuba. He winced.
“Oh, don‘t you start piling on Fidel,” he said. “It’s too easy. Anyway, things would be different if the United States hadn‘t destroyed Cuba’s economy.”
I was just starting to mention political prisoners and the exploitation of labor when he raised his hand to stop me. “I know what you‘re doing. You’re attacking me with . . . the facts.” Then he giggled, knowing he didn‘t want to hear them.
Last fall, when asked whether there’d been any warning about September 11, the Bush administration said no. Last week, when it leaked out that this wasn‘t exactly, er, true -- there was in fact a Cassandra-trail of memos and high-level meetings -- all the president’s men (and woman) did exactly what you‘d expect. They weaseled, blamed underlings and tried to scare us. That famed champion of democracy Anakin Cheney declared that our “irresponsible” Congress shouldn’t be allowed to examine the evidence (God, he must envy Castro). Bush denied foreknowledge of the attacks with the how-dare-you frown of a husband whose wife had the temerity to ask about the lipstick on his boxers. And with a subject-changing promptitude that feels not a little fishy, government officials suddenly couldn‘t stop talking about “inevitable” future attacks.
I took no small pleasure in watching the Bush people squirm. And after months of giving the administration a soft ride as it shamelessly exploited 911, the media are enjoying it, too. There’s nothing like the whiff of a cover-up to bring on that old Watergate rush -- Democrats even introduced the nostalgic phrase “What did the president know and when did he know it?” -- and by the time CBS‘s affable Bob Schieffer began firing hardball questions, Ari Fleischer must’ve felt he‘d blundered into some weird episode of That ’70s Show. Incredibly, reporters are still suckers for the romantic dream of becoming Woodward and Bernstein (although W&B themselves seem more turned on by the idea of doing well-paid hackwork), and there‘ve already been a few sightings of “TerrorGate.”
While not a single leading Democrat believes that Bush actually knew al Qaeda’s plans and decided to do nothing (“Hey, an attack will help my dad and the Carlisle Group!”), the party leaped at the chance to practice what is sometimes disdained as “gotcha politics” but is actually just politics as it‘s now played in America. The Democrats’ questions prompted Bush to lash out at Washington culture, where “second-guessing has become second nature,” but it was hard to spare him much sympathy. After watching the right spend eight years employing every nickel-and-dime excuse to go after Bill Clinton, everyone knows the Dems are merely following the conservative playbook.
Of course, the Republicans already know it by heart. On ABC‘s Sunday Morning, Senator Joseph Lieberman, whose white-noise drone could cure Al Pacino’s sleeplessness in Insomnia, said that some White House staffers were justifying their refusal to hand over documents by claiming that the Clinton administration had been too free with information. Naturally, this is just the opposite of what the Republicans were saying back when they were subpoenaing every shred of paper about such earth-shattering scandals as TravelGate and the “murder” of Vincent Foster.
But you expect such things from our relentless conservatives, who continue to find Clinton even more galling than Castro. Why, just last week, right-wing party girl Shannen Doherty talked to the New York Observer about her visit to the Bush White House. “I would have never stepped foot in the Clinton White House!” she declared. “They were sleazy.”
Shannen Doherty calling someone else sleazy! I hadn‘t laughed that hard since James Woods went on Fresh Air and attacked Clinton for having an unsavory sex life.