February 26, 2009

Laura Ingraham didn't like President Obama's speech to Congress the other night. What apparently got her goat the most, judging by her carping on Bill O'Reilly's show last night, was what she calls "the immature and rather unbecoming Bush-bashing" -- even though she acknowledges that Bush was never mentioned by name.

There's a reason for that: Obama wasn't blaming Bush specifically for the problems he inherited but conservative Republicans and their misbegotten recipes for certain failure.

And if Laura Ingraham doesn't think this is so, well, the present mess stands as a mountain of testimony to the affirmative. Of course, what they really hate is being reminded of this. They want everyone to forget that it wasn't just Bush but a whole army of conservative ideologues like Ingraham and O'Reilly who got us here.

The same is true, as O'Reilly briefly reminds us, of how Bush's bad governance opened the door for yet another great national disaster -- namely, 9/11:

O'Reilly: You know what was interesting: After 9/11, when we were attacked, President Bush did not blame President Clinton. I did, partially. I said Clinton wasn't aggressive enough. Other pundits pointed out that under the Clinton administration, there were a series of attacks by Al Qaeda. And there was a response but it wasn't --

Ingraham: Yeah, I pointed it out too.

O'Reilly: But Bush never did that.

Ingraham: Extremely gracious.

O'Reilly: Bush never said, you know: 'My predecessor didn't take aggressive enough action, and now I'm left with this huge mess.'

Well, Bush never had to say this, since the entire right-wing Wurlitzer picked up this storyline and ran with it at full volume. There were countless Fox programs dedicated to this thesis, plus radio talk shows, articles, Regnery Books -- and even a made-for-TV movie.

But there were certainly other reasons Bush himself remained mum about Clinton's anti-terror efforts -- because the reality was that he himself was asleep at the wheel on terrorism when the attacks struck on 9/11. That was because he, like every conservative on the planet, had deemphasized terrorism as a serious concern because that was "a Clinton thing."

If Bush had dared to say anything, they know that the first thing to come out would be that Aug. 6, 2001 Presidential Daily Briefing warning of an impending Al Qaeda attack. As well as the testimony of Richard Clarke, who prepared a comprehensive anti-terror strategy for the incoming administration in January 2001, only to have it ignored. And the countless other pieces of evidence (the budget cuts, the security-team shuffling, etc.) that make one thing abundantly clear: If Clinton's effort "wasn't aggressive enough," then the effort of George W. Bush -- who took not a single concrete step against terrorists prior to 9/11 -- was an outright case of gross, impeachable malfeasance.

It might also be worth recalling that Bill O'Reilly was one of the media talking heads who derided Bill Clinton's attacks on Al Qaeda in 1998-99 as simply "wagging the dog" -- when in retrospect it's clear the strikes were fully warranted. It was media figures like O'Reilly, in fact, whose irresponsibility in the 1990s helped lull the public into complacency about the serious threat that terrorism posed.

Finally, O'Reilly ought perhaps keep in mind that Obama never mentioned Bush or indulged in the kind of bashing of his predecessor that O'Reilly envisions. Obama has been implicitly indicting all conservatives, and not just Bush.

Of course, Bill O'Reilly and Laura Ingraham don't get that because they can't.

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