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Fighting 'Em Over There So We Can Spy On You Over Here

by Steve Young

Steve Young columns

Is there anything richer or more important a lesson for our children than to learn from one's failures? And has there been a year more filled with opportunities for one man to learn from than the failures that have has befallen one man's legacy than President Bush's 2005? Katrina/FEMA/Michael Brown, Continued War, Administration-connected Indictments, Social Security Reform, Veterans Administration Deficit, Torture Revelations, Paying For Positive Columns in Iraqi papers, Terry Schiavo, Harriet Myers, 9/11 Commission "F"s, Plummeting Popularity, yada, yada, yada.

But, wowzers. Talk about blundering, This past week was one for the history (of the How To Crush The Bill of Rights) books. Or was it that with time running out on '05, George Bush wanted to put a lock on Time's Man-of- the-Year cover? (This should not be perceived as a reminisce of Hitler's Time cover-boy days...though you have every right to do so.)

Seems for the past few years, the President has secretly authorized National Security Agency taps into the homes and business's of American citizens without court-approved warrants.

"Decisions made are made understanding we have an obligation to protect the civil liberties of the American people," Bush said on The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer. And if he has to crush civil liberties to protect those rights, so be it.

'Course there will be those who will defend the president's right to undo our rights. "I don't agree with the libertarians," said Sen. Trent Lott (R-Mississippi). "I want my security first. I'll deal with all the details after that." But, as Ben Franklin -- he of, "They that give up essential liberty for a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety" -- turns rapidly in his grave, Lott has every right to give up his rights. Just not anyone else's.

The president has amazingly engineered this cervical-disc-displacement attempt in creating a self-spying democracy that is akin to Saddam prosecuting himself. It gets better.

When the president risked taking questions in last week's Victory-At-Any-Cost speech, he guessed "30,000 (Iraqi citizens), more or less, have died as a result of the initial incursion and the ongoing violence against Iraqis."

While there is certainly more than a few whose data is at odds with the number (some have listed the Iraqi deaths as high as 250,000), the story here is that the White House says the president picked up the 30K figure from reading newspapers and other media. What, he couldn't ask the Pentagon? If true, that in itself shows the little regard this administration has for a single war death, let alone 30,000. Is there any wonder that their pre-war intelligence would be anything other than flawed?

The president made it a perfect three for three when he decided that while an ongoing criminal investigation of some people (Libby) kept him from commenting on an ongoing investigation (Fitzgerald's), he could comment on others (DeLay) during an ongoing criminal investigation (Earle's). While there are some cynics who might call that disingenuous or hypocritical, White House spokesperson Scott McClellan called it "presidential prerogative." That McClellan was able to get that out without even the slightest snicker illuminates just how wrong his detractors are. No one tells a lie that only Limbaugh or Hannity would defend without having some kind of competence.

That all this happened during the same week that Iraqis had a chance to vote as a result of a democracy that this president willed, offers a dichotomy of the sort that historians and psychologists will contemplate for years.

The president, who has long shied away from admitting mistakes, has recently admitted that mistakes have been made, though he has not claimed they were his. Learning from failure and mistakes has long been a formula for securing success. The problem with this administration is that the learning-from-failure formula necessitates an action (not speeches) be taken. An action that changes future conduct. Secondly, and most important, honesty is required. Neither is found in this president.

So while this week may show that he has not learned from his mistakes, nor garnered Time's year-end cover, he's always got 2006 to learn from. Let's just hope that his lack of learning failures doen't cut the year short.

Steve Young, author of "Great Failures of the Extremely Successful" can be read every Sunday in the LA Daily News Op-Ed page (right next to Bill O'Reilly)

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Albion Monitor December 17, 2005 (

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