Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Helping out Ms. Dowd

I read Maureen Dowd's column routinely, but this edit of her latest was a useful exercise, worthy of reprinting.


Because They Could
By Maureen Dowd

In his "60 Minutes" interview, Bill Clinton calls his intern idyll "a terrible moral error," illuminating "the darkest part of his inner life." Not to mention the hardest part on his back since, astonishingly, he says he spent months sleeping on the couch. (Was the Lincoln bedroom always occupied by donors?)

"I did something for the worst possible reason," he told Dan Rather about his march of folly with Monica. "Just because I could. I think that's just about the most morally indefensible reason anybody could have for doing anything."

Just because he could. What a world of meaning is packed into that simple phrase. His "could" reflects a selfish "Who's gonna stop me?" power move, stemming from a droit du seigneur attitude, as opposed to "should," signifying obligation, or "must," indicating compulsion.

The former president engaged in a relationship of choice, not necessity.

As a friend of mine explains: "It's a guy thing. We're not likely to get up off the couch if we don't have to. We might cheat with a chick who just happens to be there if we feel we could get away with it."

In his memoirs, Mr. Clinton complains about Republican droit du seigneur, writing that impeachment was driven neither by "morality" nor "the rule of law" but, as Newt Gingrich said: "Because we can."

The Clinton alpha instinct on Monica, fueled by a heady cocktail of testosterone and opportunism, was the same one that led W. into his march of folly with Iraq. After 9/11, the president, vice president and secretary of defense wanted to go to the Middle East and knock the stuffing out of somebody bad - because it would feel good, because it would put our enemies on notice, and because it would make the president look strong.

The folks at 1600 Pennsylvania didn't have Osama's address. They couldn't go after Iran or North Korea because those countries could defend themselves and retaliate, maybe with nukes. They couldn't invade Pakistan or Saudi Arabia because they're our "allies." But the Bush team knew that it wouldn't be hard to get rid of the second-rate dictator and romance novelist who posed no real threat.

They went after Saddam just because they could. Last week, the 9/11 commission debunked the White House attempt to suggest an axis of evil between Saddam and Osama.

Like Mr. Clinton, the president engaged in an enterprise of choice, not necessity. John Kerry's biggest applause line now is: "The United States should never go to war because we want to. We should only go to war because we have to."

Huffing and puffing Dick Cheney comes across as barking mad when he keeps lassoing Saddam and Al Qaeda. Tricky Dick may actually believe in his concocted connection, but he must also realize that the administration can't lose the terrorist-linkage argument for war, having already lost the W.M.D. argument .

If our leaders didn't lead us there, why did 69 percent of Americans, in a Washington Post poll last September, believe that Saddam was involved in the attacks? And a University of Maryland study last October showed that 80 percent of those who mostly watched Fox believed at least one of three misconceptions: that W.M.D. had been found; that Al Qaeda and Iraq were tied; or that the world had approved of U.S. intervention in Iraq.

Osama, suffering from what one C.I.A. shrink termed "a narcissistic explosion," also struck America because he could. It was a jihad of choice, not necessity.

Thursday's 9/11 commission report cited the dissent among Al Qaeda leaders who were worried about Pakistan's reaction or U.S. retaliation. Osama overruled the doubters, arguing that it would reap a bonanza in Al Qaeda fund-raising and recruiting.

So far, partly because of the Bush crowd's solipsistic fixation on Saddam, Osama has gotten away with his heinous power play - and reaped a bonanza in recruiting.

Mr. Clinton, though he was vilified by the right, tittered at by the world and dolled up in pink-and-black suede shoes as a toddler by his mom, is selling a zillion books.

As Republicans keep saying, with fingers crossed, W. has stayed even with John Kerry despite the litany on Iraq, terrorism and domestic affairs that has turned out quite differently than promised.

But one thing you can say for Bill Clinton: His "Who's gonna stop me?" Oval Office power surge produced a much lower body count.

Tip of hat to Blogs for Bush

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