Virtually any day of the week, you can pick up The Washington Times and count on its writers to reflect a view of reality not far removed from that of the Republican National Committee. Everyone understands they do that; it's their printing press and it's their right. What I didn't think they also did, however, at least until I picked up today's edition, was willfully misread documents.
For the November issue of this magazine, I interviewed Bill Clinton. The subjects of the interview were how the Democrats can win in 2004, how they can counter Republican arguments and where George W. Bush is vulnerable.
When Sylvia Plachy and I walked into Bill Clinton's Harlem office around 2:30 p.m. on Sept. 8, the former president was courteous to me, but he was more interested in telling Sylvia -- who, aside from being a world-renowned photographer, is the mother of Oscar-winning actor Adrien Brody -- that he'd enjoyed The Pianist, but he'd also recently rented and loved Oxygen, a 1999 thriller in which Brody played a kidnapper. How Clinton pulled that one out we didn't ask; we just took it as a quick reminder that there is such a thing as a president with broad intellectual and cultural interests, and got down to business.
If you've been feeling that the Bush administration may be skating free of having to wrestle with the Valerie Plame controversy and are wondering why this is happening, let me submit one possible explanation: The major media are putting no pressure whatsoever on the administration, or the president, to do anything.
President Bush spoke to the press at some length yesterday on the Joseph Wilson-Valerie Plame matter. He said:
I don't know if we're going to find out the senior administration official. Now, this is a large administration, and there's a lot of senior officials. I don't have any idea. I'd like to. I want to know the truth. That's why I've instructed this staff of mine to cooperate fully with the investigators -- full disclosure, everything we know the investigators will find out. I have no idea whether we'll find out who the leaker is -- partially because, in all due respect to your profession, you do a very good job of protecting the leakers. But we'll find out.
As George W. Bush has tanked in the polls, a question has gained prevalence on the op-ed pages and chat shows: Will the son repeat the mistakes of the father? By which is meant, of course, that Bush Senior went from a 90-something percent approval rating to losing his re-election bid -- will Junior do the same?
The analogy is apt, though, only up to that superficial point. Because the deeper story is, no, W. is not repeating the mistakes of his father. He's making an entirely new set of mistakes that are all his own.