White House flack and fabulist Ari Fleischer quits his post and says he is leaving because he wants to be with family, because he’s been in government service too long and wants to go into the private sector, da-da, da-da–all the usual things people in government positions of power say when they abandon ship. Is there more to this though? We’re talking about the public face of the super-secretive Mini-Bush White House. There are no places Fleisher could move to where he’d get the power, influence and public recognition he has obtained over the last two years. So could this be a case of the first rat leaving a doomed ship?
That might sound ridiculous looking at Bush’s poll numbers, but maybe Ari knows stuff we don’t know. After all, the U.S. economy is pretty close to a sinking ship–the dollar’s going relentlessly south, which will eventually mean rising interest rates and a dead economy, or soaring inflation and a return to the era of stagflation, unemployment is reaching record levels, states are going bust, and now there’s talk of the property bubble bursting, which will upset the middle class no end.
Meanwhile, Al Qaeda is successfully sticking a giant thumb into the eye of Bush’s anti-terror campaign, reminding everyone why invading Iraq was a pretty stupid idea.
Oh yeah, and Iraq is starting to look more and more like the quagmire that everyone except Bush’s circle of Iraqi exile friends and his blissfully ignorant advisers, Rumsfeld, Wolkowitz and Chaney, predicted it would be.
The pundits of the increasingly state-organ-style corporate media have already called the 2004 election for Bush, but this is nonsense. Even if the Republicans manage to subvert some close votes in states where they have the courts in their pockets, it’s quite possible that if Democrats manage to put forward a candidate with a modicum of spine and intelligence, who will highlight the domestic and international catastrophes that this unelected, wilfully ignorant alcoholic Texas yahoo has wrought, Bush and his gang could end up being swept from power in a wave of voter anger not seen in years. Fleischer, while not a central figure in the new Imperial White House, is a courtesan who is necessarily privy to the thinking of its key players, and may have been hearing worried talk that has led him to decide he should git while the gittin’s good.
Fleischer has been a brazen liar for the Bush Administration–so much so that he has been a source of genuine entertainment for what passes for a White House press corps. But he can’t have enjoyed the thought that the lies would have to grow in audacity and shamelessness as the economy and foreign policy come crashing down.
A second thought: That wonderful kiss on the head Ari had bestowed by Bush when he said he was leaving. You have to love the imagery there. There’s something marvelously feudalistic about it: the monarch bestowing a token of his affection on the obsequious servant who has repeatedly defiled himself defending the honor of his sovereign. Somehow, one can’t picture the Bush, with his new imperial pretentions, hugging or shaking hands with a second tier aide like Fleischer in such a moment.
Finally, there’s the matter of that White House Press Corps. Some have speculated as to why Fleischer never resigned. I don’t see why that is a puzzle. The man has demonstrated over the years that he has no principles. Like a flack for Exxon/Mobil or Grace Industries, he obviously sees the job of media relations as one big con job, so why would he suddenly feel the need to resign? No, the real question is why no one in the White House Press Corps has had the sense of principle and the courage to say that they would no longer participate in the charade that is being passed off as journalism. They all know that they’ve been lied to repeatedly, but they are the willing conduits of those lies to the American public. Night after night, one can watch them carrying Fleischer’s water, not cracking a smile as they gravely report the latest politically timed raising of the terror alert level, not bursting out laughing as they report on the president’s claim that Al Queda is no longer a problem.
These people–who call themselves journalists–actually allowed themselves to be scripted into a fake White House press conference, where the president pretended to be selecting reporters to ask questions when they had actually submitted them in advance and he had picked the ones he would answer, and where those few reporters who objected, like Helen Thomas, were unceremoniously dumped in the rear of the pool among the potted palms (with no protest from her colleagues).
Fleischer will certainly not be missed. He managed to drag the role of Presidential spokesperson further into the slime than it had been since Ron Ziegler’s days during the Nixon Administration. The sad thing is that even with the liar Fleischer gone, we’re stuck with the same pathetic enablers in y the White House Press Corps.
Fleischer’s replacement will have no trouble picking up the job of media manipulation from his predecessor. He or she will have able assistance from the people asking the questions.
David Lindorff is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. A collection of Lindorff’s stories can be found here: http://www.nwuphilly.org/dave.html