June 29, 2008

Holding Obama to a Consistent Standard

As an economic conservative and a social progressive, I am not entirely at home in either major political party, but I also know that my writings at Sensen No Sen have largely targeted Republicans. The sheer destructiveness of the modern G.O.P. however, is what provided the impetus for me to begin blogging in the first place, and I feel both justified and fair in my criticisms.

When Democrats have violated the standards to which I have held their opposition, I have been equinanimous in calling them out, and I have striven to avoid being the type of doctrinaire party-before-country hack that has been at the root of America's seven year spiral under George W. Bush. Just because it's "our guy" breaking the law or eroding the Constitution or getting caught in a web of his own corruption, doesn't make it OK; that's how we got where we are in the first place.

With last week's congressional machinations in full swing to pass a ruinous rewrite of existing domestic surveillance laws - and grant telecommunications companies immunity from criminal acts carried out at the behest of the White House - presidential candidate Barack Obama, along with House Democratic leadership, violated exactly the standards I describe above. Senator Obama reversed his prior declaration that he would filibuster any proposed law that contained telecom immunity, and came out in support of the egregious bill foisted on the legislature by Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Missouri's Senator Kit Bond, saying:
Given the legitimate threats we face, providing effective intelligence collection tools with appropriate safeguards is too important to delay. So I support the compromise, but do so with a firm pledge that as president, I will carefully monitor the program.
In response, CubbyChaser at Comedy Central's Indecision 2008 blog got it exactly right, observing:
Oh, well, he seems like a nice man. How can you mind surrendering your Constitutional rights to someone so charming?
Which brings us to the fundamental predicament of this situation with respect to the presumptive Democratic nominee for president. If Mr. Obama continues to support retroactive immunity and greater infringements of the Fourth Amendment, he will have gone from being a candidate one can wholeheartedly support to one for which those who care about civil liberties will cast their ballots holding their noses. Some will abstain from the general election entirely, but they will be in the minority; no one serious about even incremental reform will vote for John McCain.

So how to nip this in the bud? I suggest steady and unequivocal communication to the Obama campaign stating in no uncertain terms that his actions and positions are being closely observed. I eMailed them on Friday, and below is my open letter to the junior senator from Illinois.
To Whom It May Concern:

Originally, Barack Obama vowed to fillibuster any legislation that includes retroactive immunity for law-breaking telecoms. This was the right position to take; no ordinary American would ever receive retroactive immunity for acts they knew to be illegal, simply because the president or anyone else told them those acts needed to be committed.

Now, however, Senator Obama has not only reversed himself on one of the most important issues of the day, promising to support the wretched FISA bill recently passed from the House to the Senate, but has reneged on the promises he made to restore the rule of law and respect for the Constitution so badly damaged during the presidency of George W. Bush. Those of us who care about civil liberties and understand what is in this bill recognize the senator's new position for exactly what it is: a betrayal of the foundational principles of the Unites States and a demonstration that, at the end of the day, Senator Obama is more than willing to claim the same type of imperial powers sought by President Bush over the past 7 years.

Barack Obama is campaigning on the slogan "Change You Can Believe In." Unless he stops this bill - and it is well within his power to do so - he will have demonstrated conclusively that those are empty words indeed. On the surface, this might seem like single issue advocacy, but it is very definitely not. Without the rule of law and without respect for our Constitution, the United States is no better than any other country which vests its powers in monarchs or despots. Without equal justice, this country fails.

I voted for Senator Obama in the Missouri primary, and I have contributed to his campaign. I will donate no further funds if he continues with this course of action, and I will be certain to discuss his reversal at length with others who currently support him. We are hypocrites if we ask only one side of the political spectrum to meet the criteria to which they need to adhere, and we expect better from Senator Obama.
If the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures matters to you, I encourage you in the strongest terms to contact Obama for America and let them know. Barack Obama must be held to a consistent standard; not only when it benefits him, but when it does not.

The Obama '08 web feedback form can be found here. The campaign's telephone number is (866) 675-2008, and you can write a letter to the senator at this address:

Obama for America
P.O. Box 8102
Chicago, IL 60680

Likewise, if you are interested in organized action on behalf of consistent political principles across all parties and for all individuals and organizations, please visit Strange Bedfellows, and take their pledge.

June 25, 2008

The DCCC's Brass Cherries

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The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) is the offical campaign arm of Democratic Party in the House of Representatives, and is focused on helping to elect Democrats to the House. Yesterday, they sent out a fundraising eMail (partial capture above) claiming that if Democrats are victorious, we can be sure that "we will have leaders who will no longer trade in fear and failure." The solicitation features fomer Vice President Al Gore, and all in all, it's a nice-looking and compelling piece of communication.

If only it were true.

Instead of bringing an end to the fear and failure, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer brought home the fact that this Democratic House of Representatives is mere inches away from being every bit as bad the Republican-led one that preceded it. Mr. Hoyer, along with Senator Kit Bond, manufactured a closed-door deal that capitulated fully and unnecessarily to Bush Administration demands for expanded warrantless surveillance powers and retroactive immunity from prosecution for telecommunications companies that helped the White House spy on Americans illegally.

Simply put, House leadership sacrificed what is, arguably, their one and only major accomplishment - stopping the president and his enablers from further undermining the law and the Constitution - in an untterly spineless betrayal for non-existent political gain. Now the DCCC wants money to continue the great job they apparently believe they have been doing, and on some level, I have to hand it to them; that takes - as a friend of mine used to say - some brass cherries.

The belief that a Democratic majority by and of itself will begin to solve the manifold ills of the George W. Bush presidency has been conclusively demonstrated to be wholly misplaced. The goal must be instead to elect better politicians who work to represent the people of this country to the best of their ability, and with full faith and investment in both the law of the land and the Constitution. Electing Democrats beholden to the DCCC, far from bringing an end to fear and failure, will instead bring only more of the same.

Getting rid of craven pols like Steny Hoyer is every bit as important as unseating Bush Republicans. ActBlue, unlike the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, is focused on putting not just Democrats in office, but better Democrats.

ActBlue is currently organizing funding to unseat rubberstamp Republicans and Democrats who enable illegal and failed White House policies. Please visit, and if you are going to contribute to a Democratic House campaign, make it there, rather than the DCCC.

June 22, 2008

Terrible Twos

Sensen No Sen is two years old this month. A lot has changed in those two years, but a lot - even with the Bush political empire crumbling around the president's ears - remains the same. One need look no further than the venal FISA capitulation perpetrated on the American people by Democratic House leadership last week to see what I'm talking about.

In any case, thanks to everyone who stops by, and who has been supportive of my small niche on the web!

June 20, 2008

Bloated Ticks on the Body Politic

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Readers of this blog know that I strive to maintain a civil tone, but today, I find it extremely difficult to do so in the face of politically-motivated and utterly craven treachery by the Democratic "leadership" in the House of Representatives. I wrote a version of this post laced with profanity - it is literally the only way I can adequately express my anger and dismay right now - but I have replaced it with this one in the interest of polite discourse. It is safe to say, however, that I could not be more furious.

Glenn Greenwald has more detail about this betrayal, but the simple version is as follows. This afternoon, the House Democratic leadership - under the guidance of Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, voted to provide retroactive immunity to telecommunications communications companies who broke the law at the request of the Bush Administration by facilitating warrantless surveillance of American citizens. A crime was committed, but because the Democratic leadership is worried that the G.O.P. will use the "war on terror" as an issue during the presidential election, and because the telecommunications lobby is an extremely powerful one, the perpetrators of those crimes will be allowed to go not only unpunished, but uninvestigated.

This is not equal justice before the law.

Imagine, if you will, that the sheriff or police chief in your hometown - or even the President of the United States - approaches you with a written request to break into your neighbor's house in the interest of "national security." You know, however, from junior high school social studies, that not only do you not have the authority to perform this act, it is illegal for anyone to perform it without a warrant. Do you do it anyway? If, in this imaginary scenario, you do, then congratulations; you are leadership material for companies like Verizon and AT&T.

Can you, for even a minute, imagine illegally entering someone else's home, and expecting the excuse that you had a letter from the government asking you to do so, to hold up in a court of law, or even that of public opinion? It wouldn't, but the ability to break the law and to get away scot free is exactly what Steny Hoyer, Silvestre Reyes, Nancy Pelosi and, on the Senate side, the embarrassing Kit Bond did, with the last explaining it this way:
I'm not here to say that the government is always right, but when the government tells you to do something, I'm sure you would all agree that I think you all recognize that is something you need to do.
Really, Kit? I'm not here to say that the government is always wrong, but you can take your arrogant, sanctimonious and pathetic misunderstanding of what it is you've been hired to do, and stick it someplace shady. You and Hoyer are bloated ticks on the body politic, and if there was ever a reason to root your cowardly and diseased carcasses from their unearned and parasitic comfort, it is this.

Good luck in the next election cycle; you're going to need it.

This is no longer an issue of Democrat versus Republican; it is a matter of trust versus treachery. ActBlue is organizing funding to unseat rubberstamp Democrats who enable the illegal and failed policies of the Bush Administration. As they describe it:
After Dick Gephart betrayed the majority of House Democrats and plotted with Bush, Cheney and some Blue Dogs to thwart the will of the majority and rubber stamp Bush’s decision to attack and occupy Iraq, he was forced out of his role as Democratic Leader. Steny Hoyer deserves the exact same fate.
Click on the image to go the ActBlue FISA page, and please contribute whatever you can.

June 18, 2008

Painted Into a Corner

Last Thursday, in a landmark ruling, the Supreme Court struck down the Bush Administration's contention that it can hold people at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp without recourse to legal remedy. The 5-4 majority decision in Boumediene v. Bush states that the constitutionally guaranteed right of habeas corpus review applies to those imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay as "enemy combatants," and predictably, those who have backed the serial arrogation of Constitution power by the White House have worked themselves into the kind of ignorant, fear-mongering frenzy that we have come to recognize as the trademark of neoconservative authoritarianism.

John McCain called Boumediene "one of the worst decisions in the history of this country," and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich portended - as he has done repeatedly and disturbingly about a growing number of things - that the Supreme Court ruling "could cost us a city." Meanwhile, John Yoo, solidifying his hold on the title of Worst Constitutional Law Professor in the Country, trotted out a laundry list of falsehoods he clearly believes support his argument that the Court came to the wrong decision, but which merely serve to demonstrate his complete ignorance of the Constitution and the function of the judicial branch [emphasis mine]:

Incredibly, these five Justices have now defied the considered judgment of the president and Congress for a third time, all to grant captured al Qaeda terrorists the exact same rights as American citizens to a day in civilian court.
Guantanamo Bay, Bagram Air Base and other extra-legal U.S. prisons are known to have held large numbers of men who should either never have been interned at all, or who were clearly not the terrorist masterminds White House PR efforts claimed. Gitmo alone was originally home to around 700 prisoners, but now houses fewer than 280, including 82 who have been cleared of wrong-doing but not released. As McClatchy has reported:

Detainees at Guantanamo had no legal venue in which to challenge their detentions. The only mechanism set up to evaluate their status, an internal tribunal in the late summer of 2004, rested on the decisions of rotating panels of three U.S. military officers. The tribunals made little effort to find witnesses who weren't present at Guantanamo, and detainees were in no position to challenge the allegations against them.
Clearly, there is - or ought to be - a very high level of doubt that many, if not all, of the men caged at Guantanamo Bay deserve to be there; the military has demonstrated repeatedly that it is more than capable of having incarcerated the wrong people. The Boumediene decision merely states that each of the remaining prisoners has the right - as guaranteed by the Constitution to foreigners on American soil or de facto territory - to know the reason for their imprisonment and to challenge it. Given the number of people snatched from their homes and now known to have been locked up in the legal blackhole of Guantanamo Bay in error, it is exceedingly difficult to argue honestly that there is any other choice to be made, unless one believes that the lives of innocent foreigners have no value. As Steven Taylor notes in an excellent post over at PoliBlog [h/t Glenn Greenwald]:

It is incredibly selfish and myopic to take the attitude that because foreigners are being detained that it somehow doesn’t matter that innocent people are being caught up in the dragnet.

To put it another way, when the FARC kidnaps someone for political reasons and holds them without chance of release simply because they believe they have the right to do so within the context of a self-defined cause, we all find that to be an abomination. Why is it is any different if the U.S. government engages in the same activity?

This is frightening power to give to any human being, and yet it seems that some believe that that power ought to reside, unchallenged, in the hands of the President of the United States...

It is important, also, to realize that, for all the hand-wringing, doom-saying and collective pants-wetting from supporters of limitless government power, the current situation and legal quagmire surrounding the Guantanamo Bay prison camp is entirely of their own making. If the Bush administration had paid any attention whatsoever to the Constitution, or simply gotten even reasonably competent legal advice, none of this furor would ever have taken place. Under the law, there are two very clearly defined types of prisoners:
  1. Prisoners of war (POWs), who do not have to be convicted under domestic law to be held, and can be interned until the cessation of hostilities. POWs are under the authority of the Geneva Conventions - to which the United States is signatory - and cannot be abused.
  2. Criminals, who have the same legal rights as any person accused of crime - including habeas corpus - and who cannot be held indefinitley without judicial review. Criminal suspects may also not be abused.

That's it. Period. There is no third category that satisfies the dictates of the U.S. Constitution, despite repeated efforts to create a group called "enemy combatants," which is why the provisions of the egregious Military Commissions Act allowing denial of habeas were struck down in an earlier Supreme Court ruling. Bluntly, the Bush White House wanted so badly to not only disappear people into legal limbo, but mistreat and abuse them however they so desired, that the "crisis" surrounding the legal rights of prisoners is entirely of their own making. The men locked up at Guantanamo Bay were stridently declared not to be POWs, and since Boumediene effectively declares the fanciful "enemy combatant" designation meaningless with regard to individual rights, the Administration is left with no alternative but to begin treating the detainees as criminals rather than soldiers.

Of the remaining prisoners, only fifteen have been formally charged, and Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is completely correct when he observes:
Let's take the example of Guantanamo. What we know is that in previous terrorist attacks, for example, the first attack against the World Trade Center, we were able to arrest those responsible, put them on trial. They are currently in U.S. prisons, incapacitated... And the fact that the administration has not tried to do that has created a situation where not only have we never actually put many of these folks on trial, but we have destroyed our credibility when it comes to rule of law all around the world.
Add to that the fact that, through routine abuse of prisoners - and as with the war in Iraq - American detention camps have become a breeding ground for extremism, and the arrogance and stupidity with which the Bush Administration has pursued its hyper-aggressive and illegal policies are once again crystal clear. While this White House has demonstrated a blindered and willful incompetence across a wide range of policies and issues, there is some small comfort that Boumediene occurred early enough that the Bush Administration may be forced to clean up some of its own horrific mess. Unfortunately, while the president and his minions have unquestionably painted themselves into a corner with the Guantanamo Bay prison camp - a mushrooming embarrassment that has deeply damaged the reputation of the United States while leaving its citizens less safe - where they have shown themselves repeatedly to be inept in most other areas, they have exhibited nothing but expertise in avoiding responsibility for their destructive blunders.

The McClatchy Company was just about the only major news outlet to actively pursue and debunk the Bush Administration's claims about WMD in Iraq prior to our invasion of that country. In the years since, they have continued to distinguish themselves with the kind of in-depth investigative journalism that has largely disappeared from the corporate media landscape. Be sure to check out their outstanding and exhaustive reporting on the prisoners in the "War on Terror," the product of eight months of work, here.

June 14, 2008

Life's Tragic Imitation of Art

Last week, Time magazine reported on the unprecedented use of prescription antidepressants to keep psychologically battered soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan on the front lines:
... For the first time in history, a sizable and growing number of U.S. combat troops are taking daily doses of antidepressants to calm nerves strained by repeated and lengthy tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. The medicines are intended not only to help troops keep their cool but also to enable the already strapped Army to preserve its most precious resource: soldiers on the front lines. Data contained in the Army's fifth Mental Health Advisory Team report indicate that, according to an anonymous survey of U.S. troops taken last fall, about 12% of combat troops in Iraq and 17% of those in Afghanistan are taking prescription antidepressants or sleeping pills to help them cope. Escalating violence in Afghanistan and the more isolated mission have driven troops to rely more on medication there than in Iraq, military officials say.
As if we didn't have enough reasons to condemn the manner in which George Bush has broken the U.S. military, now we can add the fact that real life is imitating the plot of a video game set in a dystopian and war-ravaged future.

June 10, 2008

Toward the Restoration of a Vigorous Free Press

If there is a silver lining in the cloud of disgrace embodied by the symbiotic relationship between our modern corporate news media and the Bush Administration, it is that as political shilling and corporate collusion have reached previously unclimbed heights, they have become nearly impossible to ignore. Because while Americans' regard for traditional reporting has charted a steady, downward trend for the past decade - and deservedly so - citizen activism, often rooted in the blogosphere - is on the rise in this arena.

Recent confirmation from former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan that traditional news outlets, by and large, enabled President Bush's agenda for the invasion of Iraq on spurious grounds is an obvious example of the reasons underlying increased activism related to press freedom, but what is perhaps even stronger justification is the media's complete failure to follow-up on this story, which ought to be dominating public discourse. (As The Daily Show's Jon Stewart points out in the video below, courtesy of Crooks and Liars.) Likewise, the shocking New York Times report that the Pentagon orchestrated - literally - a domestic propaganda strategy in the run-up to the Iraq War using retired generals to promote the president's policies has been willfully ignored by every single major broadcast news organization except for PBS.

Lest anyone believe that the Times is consistently on the side of truth and justice, however, as Glenn Greenwald details, the Grey Lady remains guilty - even after the very public failure of its newsroom in the person of Judith Miller - of uncritically repeating a litany of patently false White House talking points, this time on the need to allow the government to spy on Americans without a warrant. Just one day earlier, Mr. Greenwald pointed out separately that cable giant Comcast appears to be making every effort to deny airtime to advertising critical of its actions in support of illegal government spying. Clearly then, media misconduct is (sadly) a target-rich environment.

This is not a minor problem. Knowledge has always been power, but in the information age, that has never been more true. The people who directly control what the American public sees and hears cannot be allowed to act without oversight or meaningful competition, and that is why last week's National Conference on Media Reform, a gathering or people dedicated to the ideal that a free and vigorous press is critical to the survival of democracy, was so heartening. It served as an emotional and intellectual outlet, a rallying point, and a source of mutual support for those who truly care about what happens to this country, not just their section of it or the parts where they've invested their money.

Bill Moyers, who started his career in politics with Lyndon Johnson, gave the keynote speech. Mr. Moyers, it is fair to recall, is responsible for what is rightly considered one of the most egregious pieces of political propaganda ever created - the infamous Daisy Girl commercial (which only aired once) - but it is unquestionable that he has dedicated the forty-plus years since he approved it for broadcast to working dilligently and consistently to improve the quality of both politics and journalism in this country by his own example. It's an excellent speech, and something to provide encouragement as we reach the midpoint of the final year in the worst presidency in the history of the United States.


June 5, 2008

Bob Dole: Part of the Problem

The furor over former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan's tell-all book about the Bush Administration's march to war in Iraq under false pretenses is richly deserved and long overdue. In his book, Mr. McClellan targets not only his former employer, but the national press for essentially playing a stenographic role in distributing the Administration's propaganda:

If anything, the national press corps was probably too deferential to the White House and to the administration in regard to the most important decision facing the nation during my years in Washington, the choice over whether to go to war in Iraq. The collapse of the administration's rationales for war, which became apparent months after our invasion, should never have come as such a surprise. ... In this case, the "liberal media" didn't live up to its reputation. If it had, the country would have been better served.
Reactions from the Fourth Estate and supporters of the president in the face of this statement - from a man whose primary professional responsibility was to spin White House policy as favorably as possible and keep the press at bay, no less - have been interesting, to say the least.

Those of us who failed to swallow the party line before Mr. Bush's ill-advised and tragic invasion of Iraq can certainly be forgiven for feeling even a small sense of vindication that revelations of conspiracy and institutional falsehood are being discussed, but the minority of journalists - McClatchy's Washington Bureau, for instance - who provided real, critical reporting, are justifiably frustrated and angry that it has taken a former presidential stooge's literary confessional to get anyone to pay attention. Meanwhile, although at least one reporter revealed that she was pressured by superiors to avoid filing stories critical of the White House's justification for military action, for every mea culpa, there were two declarations that the press corps had done a bang-up job, with the increasingly embarrassing Charles Gibson of ABC stating "[Knowing what we know now,] I’m not sure we would have asked anything differently."

There is perhaps little surprise that, in the main, the national disgrace that is our current corporate media lacks the courage, the conviction or the self-awareness to admit its mistakes; this is, after all a group that was extremely helpful in getting the president elected. Recall that while they were dumping on Mr. Bush's opponents in 2000 and 2004 as, respectively, a serial exaggerator who was stiff, cold and arrogant, and a henpecked elitist who showed cowardice under fire and shamed his country, President Bush was the MBA candidate with whom everyone most wanted to have a beer. Equally un-shocking is the fact that the usual party-over-country crowd has been in full throat in its denunciation of Scott McClellan, with Newt Gingrich essentially declaring him irrelevant, and Bill O'Reilly naming him a weasel.

What was surprising however, was former GOP presidential nominee and long-time senator Bob Dole's reaction. Mr. Dole, an old-school conservative of the Ronald Reagan-George H.W. Bush variety and a wounded combat veteran of World War II to boot, savaged Mr. McClellan in an angry eMail:

There are miserable creatures like you in every administration who don’t have the guts to speak up or quit if there are disagreements with the boss or colleagues. No, your type soaks up the benefits of power, revels in the limelight for years, then quits and, spurred on by greed, cashes in with a scathing critique.
In my nearly 36 years of public service I've known of a few like you. No doubt you will 'clean up' as the liberal anti-Bush press will promote your belated concerns with wild enthusiasm. When the money starts rolling in you should donate it to a worthy cause, something like, 'Biting The Hand That Fed Me.' Another thought is to weasel your way back into the White House if a Democrat is elected. That would provide a good set up for a second book deal in a few years.
... if all these awful things were happening, and perhaps some may have been, you should have spoken up publicly like a man, or quit your cushy, high-profile job. That would have taken integrity and courage but then you would have had credibility and your complaints could have been aired objectively. ... You’re a hot ticket now, but don’t you, deep down, feel like a total ingrate?
To be sure, some of Senator Dole's criticisms are at least partially valid; if Mr. McClellan could have effected change earlier, he should have spoken up sooner, but given what we now know about the march to war in Iraq, so should a lot of people, in both the Administration and in the press. Likewise, it is telling that those who were critical of the invasion plans - even if only from a logistical standpoint - such as Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki, were quickly forced out, and it is difficult to make the case that anyone would have listened to Scott McClellan as President Bush invaded Iraq.

It is also puzzling, with the raft of criticism for the president from former military men such as General John Batiste and Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez (the former commander of forces in Iraq) that Mr. Dole singles out Mr. McClellan for a tongue-lashing, especially in light of this passage from General Sanchez's new book, which was released just weeks before McClellan's:
In 2006, I was forced to retire by civilian leaders in the executive branch of the U.S. government. I was not ready to leave the soldiers I loved. The Army was my life. Service to my nation was my calling. In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, I watched helplessly as the Bush administration led America into a strategic blunder of historic proportions. It became painfully obvious that the executive branch of our government did not trust its military. It relied instead on a neoconservative ideology developed by men and women with little, if any, military experience. Some senior military leaders did not challenge civilian decision makers at the appropriate times, and the courageous few who did take a stand were subsequently forced out of the service.
Although it is difficult to dispute the contention that Scott McClellan would never have had the prominence he enjoyed as White House Press Secretary had he not met George W. Bush, the idea that he is an "ingrate," a "miserable creature" or guilty of "biting the hand that feeds him" is, at its core, ridiculous. By his consistent account, Mr. McClellan was given false assurances by Karl Rove and Scooter Libby that the two were uninvolved in leaking Valerie Plame's identity as a CIA agent in retaliation for her husband's criticism of the president's justification for war with Iraq. (Speaking of reasons why voicing concerns early was no guarantee that anyone would listen!) Mr. McClellan, who was roundly pilloried for standing up for his two colleagues - with Libby eventually convicted of wrongdoing in the affair - was, in short, made a very public fool by the president and the vice president's righthand men, and apparently with Mr. Bush's acquiescence, if not his approval.

Further, as a public servant - appointed or no - Scott McClellan's duty is, first and foremost - and no matter the time line - to the people of the United States, not to either the Republican Party or George W. Bush. It is American tax revenue, not the president, that pays government salaries, and anyone working for the public is doubly duty-bound to speak out if no one else is doing so, and no one else has. Senator Dole concedes in his electronic screed that there may well be basis for Mr. McClellan's complaints ("...if all these awful things were happening, and perhaps some may have been..."), but continues to question his integrity. Certainly, timely exposure of misdeeds is the most desirable outcome, but are we truly to hold in greater respect those who witness acts of bad faith at public expense and remain silent, than those who report it, if only belatedly?

Finally, there is the matter of whether or not Scott McClellan is telling the truth, lying or is simply misinformed. If it is the last, then it is reasonable to expect a persuasive and direct response from the White House; instead, statements have been largely confined to attacks on character, and one need only refer to the Plame leak to understand what that means. It is certainly possible that Mr. McClellan has constructed his memoir out of whole cloth in order to cash in on the talk show circuit, but by any reasonable assessment, it is highly unlikely. He was a long-time member of the Bush team, and if he kept his mouth shut, there is little doubt he would have been well cared-for in the coming years by the network of powerful interests who remain invested in the GOP and this president. (Perhaps he would have found work as a Fox News commentator.) As it is, however, he has pledged to donate a portion of the profits from his book to charities benefiting returing Iraq War veterans. (I'd be happier if all proceeds were donated, but it's a start.)

All of which leads to this: while it may well be that his betrayal by Karl Rove and Scooter Libby was what pushed him over the edge, even a brief evaluation of the potential motives involved strongly indicates that Scott McClellan is telling the truth to the best of his ability, and that the White House knowingly lied the country into the invasion of Iraq. Again, this is not a startling revelation for those who have closely followed this issue, but it is unquestionably incremental evidence in the case for condemnation of the Bush Administration.

Bob Dole, meanwhile, has revealed himself not as an elder statesman who retired as a respected senator and presidential candidate with a healthy ability to poke fun at himself, but as just one more rank Republican hypocrite. It was Bob Dole, remember, who, in reference to the White House's improper use of FBI background reports, railed at the American public during his 1996 presidential run against Bill Clinton, demanding "Where is the outrage in America?" In light of the Bush Administration's disregard for the law and the Constitution, the Kansas senator's question remains a good one, just not for the reasons he believes.