Monday, December 12, 2005

Where there's smoke, there's ire

The Rant
Where there's smoke, there's ire
Dec 12, 2005, 08:33

The firestorm over Friday?s column quoting President George W. Bush?s obscene outburst over the Constitution continues to grow with our email box overflowing from outraged readers who think the President should be impeached along with pro-Bushites who want my head on a platter.

I?m surprised by the public?s anger over this. When a GOP operative first emailed me about the White House meeting where Bush called the Constitution ?just a goddamned piece of paper,? I put it aside as one of many reports I get about the President?s temper tantrums.

Bush lashed out at an aide who dared question him on the USA Patriot Act. That?s typical Bush. We started reporting on the President?s outbursts last year and those tantrums are now widely reported now by the so-called ?mainstream media.?

As Evan Thomas and Richard Wolfe write in the current edition of Newsweek:

?A White House aide, who like virtually all White House officials (in this story and in general) refused to be identified for fear of antagonizing the president? How many people dare to snap back at a president? Not many, and not unless they have known the president a long, long time. (Even Karl Rove, or "Turd Blossom," as he is sometimes addressed by the president, knows when to hold his tongue.) In the Bush White House, disagreement is often equated with disloyalty? his attitude toward Congress was "my way or the highway," according to a GOP staffer who did not want to be identified criticizing the president.?

We get tips about Bush?s temper and his comments all the time. Most of the tips don?t get used because we don?t go with information from just one source. The tip about ?the goddamned piece of paper? seemed destined for the byte bin until a second aide, in casual conversation, mentioned the comment.

So I called a third source who has confirmed information in the past. At first he was defensive.

?Who told you about that?? I told him I?d picked it up from two other sources.

?Look, you know how the President is,? he said. ?He gets agitated when people challenge him.?

All I wanted to know was did the President of the United States call the Constitution a ?goddamned piece of paper.?

?Yeah. He did.?

So I went with the story. To me it was just another example of a President who too often lets his anger get the better of him, particularly with anyone who dares disagree. I didn?t see it as a rallying cry for those who either want Bush?s head for his various misdeeds or mine for daring report them.

Some say Bush should be impeached. Sorry, I don?t agree. He?s not the first President to consider the Constitution an expendable document and he won?t be the last. Most Presidents have complained that the Constitution gets in their way.

When Teddy Roosevelt decided to send the Marines into North Africa, his Secretary of State cautioned him such an act would be unconstitutional.

Teddy snapped back: ?Why destroy the beauty of the act with legalities??

Presidents, by their nature, look for ways to skirt the law when that law gets in the way of their agendas. If we impeached every President who disregarded the Constitution when it didn?t suit his purposes we probably would have tried just about every President in the last 50 years.

Those who support the President no matter what now demand that I release the names of aides who passed on the information.

Sorry. Doesn?t work that way. I don?t burn sources. Never have. Never will. And, as every news outlet that covers Washington knows, the Bush administration comes down hard on anyone who talks out of school about the President.

?Sometimes the only way to get a story is to promise confidentiality,? Lucy Dalglish, executive director of The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press advocacy group, told the Christian Science Monitor recently.

In a White House where any disagreement with the President is branded as disloyalty or, in some cases, unpatriotic, the only sources who will tell us what?s really going on are those who choose to remain anonymous.

It ain?t perfect but in these imperfect times, it?s the best we?ve got.

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