Inconvenient News,
       by smintheus

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

  Mister Bush and the sublime art of self-parody

I'm wondering whether some wise elderstatesman-comedian, like Mort Sahl, has been hired to advise the White House. To judge by last weekend's Press Corps dinner, it's certainly not the President who knows how to pull off absurdist comedy.

Whoever's pitching the ideas, the administration is in top form this week. Via Glenn Greenwald, I see that Bush's National Security Adviser, Stephen Hadley, has responded in a most remarkable way to Rep. Nancy Pelosi's request for information regarding the warrantless spying being conducted by the NSA.

I suppose, to call it 'remarkable' is to damn it with faint praise. This is parody of the most sublime sort. The White House is not shooting for 'smart'. It intends to have the reputation for being the wittiest administration of the modern era.

Here is the opening of the letter Pelosi sent yesterday to Hadley, from which you can infer both the nature of her original request and the absurdist response by the White House.

Dear Mr. Hadley:

On December 22, 2005, I wrote to you requesting the dates and locations of, as well as the names of members of the Senate and House of Representatives who attended briefings on the National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance program discussed by the President in his December 17, 2005 radio address. You responded on December 29 informing me that you had asked the Director of National Intelligence to provide me with the information I had requested.

The NSA Director has advised me that the information I sought has been sent to the House Intelligence Committee for secure storage because it was “classified and compartmented.” It is my understanding that the information provided is confined to a list of names of those who attended the briefings and the dates on which the briefings occurred. This is not national security information by any definition, and I therefore find the decision to classify it to be inconsistent with classification standards and completely without merit.

In other words, in December Rep. Pelosi had sought to verify the Bush administration's claims that it had repeatedly briefed appropriate members of Congress about the NSA spying. She asked for nothing more than the names of those who'd been briefed, and the dates of the briefings. Stringing her along for months did not shake her determination to get that information (such as it is).

So somebody with an impish sense of humor, I'm thinking it pretty much has to be Mort Sahl, tossed this idea out: Let's type up the list, already, but stamp it classified before anybody sees it. This ought to be good for at least 15 minutes of sustained hilarity in Tony Snow's standup gig at the Hungry I.

Some would chide me for the foregoing, I think. Such people believe that there's nothing like an actual humorist working within the White House. To these people, I hold up Exhibit A, the administration's response to questions from Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee regarding the NSA spying.

Note how the author(s) deploy over and over again, for comic effect, the sentence

As we have explained above, operational information about the Terrorist Surveillance Program is classified and sensitive, and therefore cannot be discussed in this setting.

This script was thought to be so hilarious when first delivered in the House that there is talk already that it will be staged, unaltered, perhaps in New York next season. Mort Sahl is back, and sharper than ever.


  • I don't think you or Ms. Pelosi want to accept the fact that Mister Bush is The Decider. Get it through your heads. You're not The Decider, are you? Is Ms. Pelosi The Decider? No. Mister Bush is The Decider. He Decides. Why are you still asking questions? What is going on in this country is None Of Your Business.

    [bit punchy this morning]


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:07 AM  

  • Mind-your-own-business journalism is, as I said before (see the commentary on the Pulitzer Prizes two weeks ago), my ideal. I don't understand either why Congressional Democrats can't emulate most 'respected' journalists working in DC, and for that matter their own Republican colleagues, and just learn to keep their nose out of the President's affairs. Chiz.

    Thanks for the comment astraea.

    By Blogger : smintheus ::, at 3:55 PM  

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