Always 180° at Shrub's White House But is it Shady?
by Susan Sigandres
What gives with all these retractions by the junta? Since
the installation, we have witnessed a most incredible series
of about-faces, turnarounds, switcheroos, and flip flops.
I cannot imagine a more thankless job than one in the White
House Office of Damage Control (ODC). No one there seems to
be able to get a grip on how to handle policy matters. I must
say that the only thing the ODC has succeeded in doing so
far is hiding its own turnover rate, which has got to be stratospheric
(or is that hemispheric?).
The pattern of reversals began almost immediately, when Shrub
retracted the story put out by the ODC that President Clinton
and his guests had stolen items from Air Force 1. Then Andy
Card's announcement that the AIDS and race relations offices
would be shut down had to be reversed. Then things got really
During one hellish period in March, Shrub's linguistic incompetence,
foreign policy ignorance, and unfamiliarity with domestic
events combined with Powell's loose lips and Whitman's flapjaw
to send the ODC into a tailspin. Bush mistakenly said he was
against the death penalty, when he isn't; that the U.S. had
more than one current agreement with North Korea, when it
doesn't; and that efforts to get moving on the euphemistically
termed "office of faith based initiatives," weren't stalled,
when they were. On top of that, the ODC had to reverse two
public statements by the Secretary of State, on Iraq and North
Korea, and one by the EPA chief, the now infamous decision
to shrug off the campaign pledge to limit carbon dioxide emissions.
Moving right along, there was a reversal of the decision
to stop salmonella testing of beef served to school children
through the federal school lunch program. Shrub also backpedaled
on his insistence that his education program include vouchers.
Then the ODC told Paul O'Neill to reverse his decision
not to divest himself of his sizable Alcoa holdings. Then
there was the backtracking during the China incident, when
the ODC changed its mind about having Shrub talk tough and
instead had him call poppy's buddy Skowcroft before things
got so out of hand that the US would be cornered into apologizing.
Well, it looks like now it's Rummy's turn to do a turnaround.
A Pentagon spokesman announced that Rummy decided to suspend
all US military relations with China. Then this announcement
was - you got it - reversed. Of course, the folks at the ODC
don't like to 'fess up to 180° turns, but they sure are
running out synonyms for "clarification." They didn't even
bother looking one up for Rummy. The ODC's script for a different
Pentagon spokesman later in the same day said flatly "that
was not his intention." I guess that's progress of some sort
on the ODC's part.
At first glance, all this bungling may strike one as highly
amusing. A second glance may evoke the thought that the junta's
corporate credentials are showing - the dipsy-doodling is
undeniably reminiscent of how executives go about doing things.
However, let's look beyond the obvious to find the even more
obvious. Shhhhhh. Don't look now but the ODC is most likely
deliberately planning these reversals in a devastatingly clever
attempt to keep us all off balance as to what the junta has
in store for next.