Veteran watchers of the Bush administration are coming to realize that all of the official statements these days are generally variations on a one of a very few themes.
Official Response #3: "No one could have anticipated . . ."
Both FEMA and the Department of Defense claim credit for the popularity of this phrase. FEMA’s landmark work in New Orleans before, during, and after Hurricane Katrina is the gold standard for domestic idiocy, while the ongoing GOP foreign policy efforts in Iraq of the DOD, CIA, CPA, KBR, Halliburton, and a host of others (from both private industry and governmental offices) have made this phrase an international icon of ridicule.
Official Response #2: "I’m an idiot, not a crook!"
Generally, this response is not phrased quite so bluntly, but it appears in more benign forms, as it did in the DOJ Inspector General’s recent report on Monica Goodling and the illegal political hiring practices of the DOJ under Ashcroft and Gonzales. As Charlie Savage recounts in his story on the report in the New York Times,
Ms. Williams [then the White House’s liaison to the Justice Department] told the Justice Department inspector general that she had not realized that immigration judges were career jobs subject to Civil Service rules. Mr. Fratto [a White House spokesman] said there was no evidence that White House officials realized that at the time, either.
Read that again, more slowly.
Shorter Jan Williams to DOJ IG: "I’m an idiot, not a crook!"
Shorter Tony Fratto: "Us too — we’re *all* idiots, not crooks!"
Never mind that pesky "ignorance of the law is no excuse" legal dictum — it’s just a tired cliche, I guess.
Topping the list, though, is a classic . . .
Official Statement # 1: "I don’t recall."
Many have used these words before, and no doubt many will do so in the future. But who can forget the legendary appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee of the 80th Attorney General of the United States, Alberto Gonzales? (Shorter musical version here, and longer KO version here. )
I don’t recall. I have no recollection. I don’t remember. . .
I would be remiss in my duties if I failed to note a new phrase, rising fast on the charts as the administration’s days come to an end: "Let bygones be bygones."
Never mind looking back at past lawbreaking. Don’t bother trying to sort out who in the Bush administration (or who, under their orders) did what to whom in violation of US government regulations, federal laws, international treaties, or the Constitution of the United States of America. As the clock ticks down on BushCo, that "accountability moment" that comes every four years is looking mighty frightening to everyone from Bush on down, and so "let bygones be bygones" is sounding better and better.
Ah, the classic official statements of the Bush administration. If you have a favorite variation, do share it in the comments. They all get embroidered, embellished, and enhanced, but each one comes down to the same thing: Don’t blame me!
Sorry Mr. President — it comes with the job.