What the hell is wrong with these people?

Let us pause for a moment to consider … well, what should we consider? Indeed, amid the high-volume histrionics of Republicans lamenting the end of the world now that Senator Barack Obama has been elected president, complaining such as they do about things Obama has not even had an opportunity to do—pre-emptively defending themselves against any further loss of credibility, or something like that—one could easily forget that there is, in fact, another man currently serving as President of the United States. For his part, though, it is enough to say that even he seems, at times, to have forgotten that he is still president.

Nonetheless, some, including McClatchy’s Warren Strobel seem surprised at attempts by the Bush administration to revise history in order that the outgoing president will be treated more kindly in our memories. Wait a minute, that can’t be it. Who the hell is surprised at that? After all, the administration has been trying to revise history for most of its tenure.

Perhaps, then, it is the shameless severity of Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice’s remarks in an interview with C-SPAN’s Steve Scully on Monday that caught Strobel and his colleagues’ attention:

QUESTION: But as you know, even overseas, some of that sharpness, some of that derision has been aimed at George W. Bush. So despite all of the accomplishments that you just outlined, why is he, in some parts of the world, detested?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the President had to do some very difficult things. Look, we came out of September 11th having to make a choice about how we were going to defend this country. Were we going to stay with a strategy that essentially considered terrorism a law enforcement problem, or were we going to go to war against them? And in some quarters, it wasn’t popular to talk in the terms and act in the manner in which we – at recognizing that we were at war with these people. And yes, we had to do some very tough things.

But you know, I think I’ve found over the years, particularly in these most recent years, that much of that rancor is gone. We have outstanding relations with our European allies now. When I go to a NATO meeting, it is about the incredible fact that NATO is fighting together in Afghanistan. Yes, we’d like to see more contribution here. Yes, there are national caveats there that are constraining. But imagine NATO fighting in Afghanistan as its core mission.

When I go to Europe, I no longer see any difference in the view that a stable and secure Iraq is in everybody’s interest, and that an Iraq that is democratic and in which Saddam Hussein, that brutal monster that caused three wars in the region, including dragging us in twice, that used – who used weapons of mass destruction against his own people, that an Iraq that is democratic and friendly to the West is better for the Middle East. I don’t see much disagreement about that.

I see no disagreement that Iran has to be prevented from getting a nuclear weapon. And on the Middle East, I’ve never seen greater harmony behind the Annapolis process as the basis on which a two-state solution will eventually come into being.

And so whatever we went through in the difficult days of 2003, 2004 it would be a mistake to think that we have problematic relations with our allies. We simply don’t. We may not agree on everything, but the transatlantic relationship is in very, very good shape. And you can even say that more so for our core relations in places like Japan and South Korea and India and, indeed, China.

Tell me, please: Do these people ever stop lying?

What is her problem? No, really, what the hell is the Secretary of State’s problem? You know, when she became part of the Bush administration, I knew some people who were excited. They were, of course, graduates of Stanford University, who take pride in nearly anyone associated with that gold standard of American academia, but it wasn’t just the feather in the alma mater’s cap. The appointment of Dr. Rice to Bush’s transition team and then the National Security Agency suggested to my friends that, however lackluster they might have found Bush, Jr., he was at least bringing skilled hands to the White House. Rice at NSA, Powell at State. It must have felt to them something akin to when Newsweek‘s Howard Fineman suggested the day after the election, on MSNBC’s Countdown with Keith Olbermann that the expected theme of President-elect Obama’s Cabinet would not be diversity, bipartisanship, or even competence, but, rather, excellence. President George W. Bush, Jr., might have seemed a complete dunce, but Condoleeza Rice?

Who could have imagined so dramatic a fall from grace? Who could have guessed that such an esteemed mind could possibly perform so poorly during her tenure in American government? Had I described a projection remotely resembling the disaster of her service, suggested that she could in any way come close to staining our nation’s reputation as she has, well, I’m sure I would have been accused of partisanship at the very least. And, come on, that would have been fair, right? I mean, really, many of us had doubts about Bush. But none of us ever expected, say, Colin Powell to go before the United Nations and lie to the world in order to start a war. Powell, though, seems unquestionably aware of how embarrassing that day was. Condoleeza Rice, however …. If Powell’s day before the UN was unimaginable, how could any sane person have reasonably asserted that Condoleeza Rice would humiliate and discredit the nation as she has? What the hell happened?

There is a basic consideration I sometimes find myself making: Sinister or stupid? To me, the one is simply a sublimated form of the other. That is, very smart people can still be stupid, and often that stupidity comes in the form of sinister behavior. Some people, no matter how smart they are, simply cannot comprehend the nature and impact of their actions. And so they go forward, wrapped in hubris or awash megalomania, and somehow honestly believe that in all their lying and calculation that brings so much harm, disdain, and ridicule that they are unquestionably correct, beyond reproach.

Still, though, it doesn’t explain Secretary Rice’s words on C-SPAN.

Strobel writes,

Dragging us in twice?

Pause. Think about that.

I mean, everyone–or most everyone–agrees that former President George H.W. Bush had to respond after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in August 1990 and threatened to go further south, into the Saudi oil fields. That’s once. I suppose it’s possible that by “twice,” Rice was referring to U.S. involvement in the Iran-Iraq war, when the United States reflagged Kuwaiti tankers to protect them from threats to shipping, and got involved in various other ways (including by suppling intel to our-then friend Saddam Hussein to help him fight Iran).

But it seems more likely that Rice was arguing that Saddam “dragged us in” to the Iraq War. That’s not our memory here at Nukes and Spooks. In fact, the record is now clear (as we reported at the time) that President George W. Bush had decided to go to war against Iraq in early 2002, just a few months after the 9/11 attacks. Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction or significant, operational ties to fundamentalist Islamic terrorists. The Bush administration dismissed Saddam’s accounting of his WMD, ignored offers of mediation, and used bogus and false intelligence to make the case for war. It didn’t let the U.N. Security Council or opposition from Europeans get in the way. All that makes for an odd definition of “dragging us in.”

An odd definition, indeed. One that raises an obvious question: What the hell is wrong with her?

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