December 4, 2002

The John Dilulio Affair

This is endlessly fascinating -- this thing with Bush's former aide recanting his words as they appeared in Esquire magazine, obsequiously, in a blatant panic. There are endless layers to this.

Sometimes there are events that tear away the veil from the workings of power and for a brief time it is plainly visible, the whole seedy, corrupt business of government. The socially sanctioned word for such events is "scandal." But as John Judge points out, what are called scandals are really just moments at which we get a glimpse of the way things work all the time.

The right wing Reverend Moon-owned Washington Times covers this Dilulio incident as per this link: Washington Times.

While you are looking at this Washington Times article, which is strangely critical of the Bush machine, there is an ad blinking at the top of the page. It's a banner flashing in three alternate, colorful images, and nearly impossible to ignore. It's subliminally battling for your attention as you try to concentrate on the text below, which is not colorful and flashing like the ad above. The ad shows a sinister-looking picture of Bill Clinton's face juxtaposed in front of the World Trade Center towers collapsing into thick smoke. Three images alternate. One line shows constantly: "NEWSMAX.COM EXCULSIVE" (sic). Under it the three images flash in turn. One says, "CATASTROPHE". The second: "Clinton's 911 Role". Then: "Find out now! Click Here for this Blockbuster Book!"

Then the article. According to the Washington Times, John Dilulio, former Bush aide who worked in the White House for the first 180 days, has apologized and retracted things that were attributed to him in Esquire magazine. According to this article, he parroted back Bush mouthpiece Ari Fleischer's own words when he gave his public apology. Fleischer said DiIulio's statements were "baseless and groundless." In DiIulio's retraction he said his own words were "groundless and baseless."

The context is worth repeating: "My criticisms were groundless and baseless due to poorly chosen words and examples. I sincerely apologize and I am deeply remorseful."

Deeply remorseful? Okay, you thought better of what you said, but get hold of yourself, man! This is a man who is terrified. He is reduced to a blubbering child. What do they have on this guy?

Well, it doesn't take a lot of imagination to realize that having the Bush administration aim its full weight at you could be terrifying indeed. Most of us just hope to stay under the radar.

Remember, Bush can put anyone in jail he wants to without trial. Without even filing charges. We peons no longer have rights, not if we accept the Bush Doctrine. It is Bush's world, as one of his aides said. We just live in it.

That's the way they see it anyway. Some of the rest of the world may not agree with that view.

So what was all this about anyway? For God's sake what has reduced this man to such a whimpering thing?

Apparently he said that the Bush administration put more energy into politics than policy.

Well? Is that all? He didn't say Bush is a child molester and Karl Rove is his butt buddy? And Donald Rumsfeld is a mercury-poisoned creature born of a toxic waste cesspool? And John Ashcroft an alien?

Let me be clear that I do not advocate any of the above positions, but I was just expecting this ruckus must have been about something more than just saying the Bush machine is all about politics. That's merely stating the obvious, and it's not even among the top 100 most malign things about the Bush administration.

Not only is he prostrating himself in the most servile posture imaginable for one human being to take in deference to another, he is vowing to never open his mouth again. Here's the quote: "I will not be offering any further comment, or speaking or writing further on any aspect of my limited and unrepresentative White House experience or any matters or persons related thereto. I regret any and all misimpressions. In this season of fellowship and forgiveness, I pray the same." Jesus.

When the Times tried to contact DiIulio at the University where he is a professor, the reporter was told Dilulio had taken sick leave.

John Dilulio was director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives for seven months. He resigned in August 2001, citing health and family concerns.

The author of the Esquire article, Ron Suskind, stands by the article, and offers support of Dilulio: "In the end, Mr. DiIulio is the first senior White House staff member to break this administration's code of silence. His is an act of civic education, for which he should not be attacked."

Dilulio said he had a long, rambling chat that was off the record. Suskind said he asked to be off the record and Suskind, a former Wall Street Journal reporter, declined. DiIulio said he also wrote Suskind a memo. DiIulio is saying there are things in the article that are not in the memo and that he does not remember saying. Or that he disavows now, or wishes he hadn't said.

Now -- Esquire published Dilulio's letter to Suskind, the "memo" Dilulio admits to having written.

Dilulio's letter is above all, enormously deferential of Bush, almost worshipful. It is reminiscent of the obsequiousness demonstrated to royalty in past ages when people called them, "Your Excellency," "Your Grace," and so on.

Bush, he says, is "a highly admirable person of enormous personal decency. He is a godly man and a moral leader. He is much, much smarter than some people - including some of his own supporters and advisers - seem to suppose. He inspires personal trust, loyalty, and confidence in those around him. In many ways, he is all heart. Clinton talked 'I feel your pain.' But as Bush showed in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, he truly does feel deeply for others and loves this country with a passion."

He goes on to lay it on thick for another long paragraph before getting to the point that in terms of policy, these guys are winging it without a clue day in and day out. "Besides the tax cut, which was cut-and-dried during the campaign, and the education bill, which was really a Ted Kennedy bill, the administration has not done much, either in absolute terms or in comparison to previous administrations at this stage, on domestic policy," the letter says.

The letter is actually quite insightful, coherent discussion of policy and it is sad to see the man reduced to a state in which he denies himself the prerogative of being able to speak openly and intelligently about issues.

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