Axing the Tough Questions

The recent disclosure that President Bush received a general warning before Sept. 11 of possible hijackings prompted a firestorm of spin. Conservative pundits and politicians fought back on cue, showing impressive message-discipline as they argued in unison that criticism of the president amounts to treason in the face of terrorism. Democrats "need to be very cautious not to seek political advantage by making incendiary suggestions," said Vice President Dick Cheney (without specifying any "incendiary suggestions" that any Democrats had actually made). On Fox News, Fred Barnes said that Democrats "looked like not a loyal opposition but a disloyal opposition." White House communications director Dan Bartlett told the Washington Post that Democrats are doing "exactly what our opponents, our enemies, want us to do." As points out, "This is the most direct statement by an administration official to date suggesting that dissent aids the enemy. ... The prevailing GOP/conservative strategy is to try to shut down debate over the war before it even starts. Any questioning of the administration's handling of the war on terror is immediately mischaracterized and attacked as unpatriotic. This bullying makes actual dissent from the president's policies nearly impossible -- and it appears to be working yet again. And every time it does, our democracy is debased just a little bit more."