Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Rewarding Bad Behavior

The Bush administration is balking at the prospect of opening up talks with Iran and Syria about the crisis in Iraq on the grounds that it would be "rewarding bad behavior".

How about a little walk down memory lane:
  • December 14, 2004: George W. Bush awards the Medal of Freedom to former CIA Director George Tenet, whose agency failed to prevent 9/11 and who was ultimately responsible for the horrible intelligence that got us into Iraq in the first place. Bush said, "He's done a superb job on behalf of the American people." The president accepted his resignation some months before the ceremony, on June 3, 2004. Tenet said he was going to "spend more time with his family".

  • April 21, 2005: George W. Bush gives the thumbs-up to John Bolton, his choice for Ambassador to the UN, despite the latter's long history of stubbornness and even physical violence in the workplace. He called Bolton "a good man". In August of 2005, Bush gave Bolton a recess appointment to the post, ignoring the fact that Congress would not vote to confirm him. The president accepted his resignation on Monday.

  • September 2, 2005: George W. Bush praises FEMA chief Michael Brown with the immortal words: "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job." This is five days after Hurricane Katrina swept ashore, leaving death and massive destruction in its wake. On the 9th he was relieved of his duties as head of the Katrina relief effort. On the 12th, President Bush accepted his resignation.

  • November 1, 2006: George W. Bush lauds Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, saying "both those men are doing fantastic jobs". He would accept Rumsfeld's resignation one week later. In December 2004, after the Abu Ghraib abuses had come to light, the president praised Rummy thuswise: "He's doing a really fine job." And, "I know Secretary Rumsfeld's heart ... He's a good, decent man. He's a caring fellow."
In Catch-22, Colonels Korn and Cathcart are trying to decide how to punish Yossarian for cowardice during a bombing run when they stumble upon an idea that works to their personal advantage: why not give him a medal and a promotion instead? Think of all the publicity. Korn says, "You know, that might be the answer - to act boastfully about something we ought to be ashamed of. That's a trick that never seems to fail."

The Bush administration has no trouble rewarding bad behavior. In fact, they do little else. The real reason they don't want to talk to Iran and Syria is because they are intensely stubborn and have the most inordinately difficult time admitting any error, no matter how small. In their eyes, engaging Iraq's neighbors is a sign of weakness, and such a sign can never be shown—even if the weakness is real.

All truth is relative at the White House.
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