Scout sent me this over the weekend:

“He’s looking at this stuff, and he says, ‘I’ve heard of you. I heard of you.’

“He says, ‘Is it really true that you really know the Arabs this well, and that you speak Arabic this well? Is that really true? Is that really true?’

“And I said, ‘Yeah, that’s really true.’

“That’s too bad,” Feith said.

The problem a lot of people have with describing the Bush administration’s flunkies as incompetent is that it implies letting them off the hook, like mentally impaired children. As if we’re saying, poor dears, they were just too dumb to know better, and if only they’d been less stupid, or read more books, or something. But there’s a reason I use the word for people like Feith, and it’s because it places the blame where it belongs. Higher than Feith, higher than Wolfowitz, higher than anyone with whom the buck logically stops.

I say incompetent because that’s really what this is about: People just not doing their jobs. And their motivations, be they evil by design or just doomed by perpetual blundering, don’t really matter all that much. What matters is that the person tasked with supervising them all, the President of the United States, didn’t do his job, reign in the nutjobs, deal with people who might have disagreed with him on some other issue but were good at their work, take the risk that differing viewpoints wouldn’t kill him dead, and get better people in the places where better people were required.

HIS motivations matter tremendously. It matters tremendously that our next president is capable, as I say in the Feith book, of saying to someone presenting what is supposedly “slam dunk” information, “Hey, I don’t think that sounds right, tell me something else. Get me in here somebody who disagrees with this guy. Before I take us to war I want to know everything.” Instead of a guy who demanded to be told only things that reinforced his pre-conceived ideas, which is not coincidentally the rap on Feith himself. Instead of a guy who did not have the foreign policy experience nor the mental flexibility to accept that maybe what he imagined while playing with his GI Joes just wasn’t humanly possible.

It matters tremendously that our next president is capable of both the humility to admit the limits of his or her knowledge but also possessed of enough of said knowledge to parse the information coming from people like Feith and say, “This is bullshit. You’re fired. Bring me somebody who knows what he’s doing.”


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