Where was this kind of thinking before the election?
JAN CRAWFORD: “Well, I mean when you’re talking about the Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano coming out and insisting that the system worked and Press Secretary Robert Gibbs saying on this program last week, pretty much the same language that the system has worked. That’s a problem. I mean obviously the American people can look out there and go, well, you know, it didn’t.
“But it’s not just those sound bites. I mean those are sound bites. The reason that’s an issue for Obama is that it goes to the bigger question of the competency of his government and the trust that people have in that government. You look at polls. Polls show that the trust in government is an all time low. Domestically, obviously, stimulus plan hasn’t worked. Unemployment is high.”
Bob Orr: “It’s just amazing to me that questions about privacy and your rights would trump security.“
David Martin: “Closing Guantanamo is going to nothing more than a change of address for the detainees because they [the Obama administration] still have the procedure of indefinite detention for people you can’t take to court because the evidence won’t stand up in court for any number of reasons, but you considered too dangerous to release.”
Jan Crawford: “I agree with David. I mean, moving these guys here is really just a change of address on Guantanamo. The Supreme Court has decided they should get some rights. So whether they’re in Illinois or Guantanamo, it’s not a huge difference. But holding criminal trials for these enemy combatants is something that historically the United States has never done. In World War II, for example, you know we had the German saboteurs coming into this country. FDR ordered them tried by a secret military tribunal. And they were executed month later.
“But we’ve decided, this administration has decided, that we’re going to give them a full range of constitutional and procedural protections and allow them to be treated as ordinary criminal defendants. That’s going to be a major issue picking up on what Bob said of how we’re going to kind of have this tension between the rule of law and rights for these people while we’re also waging war. We’re going to be holding them, giving them these full range of constitutional rights while we’re stepping up drone attacks and trying to basically kill their counterparts.”
BOB SCHIEFFER: “Finally today, Homeland Security Chief Janet Napolitano is getting hammered because her first response to the undie bomber fiasco was that the system worked.
“We shouldn’t have been surprised. Sure, she looks a little silly now that the facts are dribbling out. But she was just following the modern bipartisan public relations template in this age of information management.
“First, play down the problem. Second, emphasize what did not go wrong. Assure us that those in charge are investigating, and most important, emphasize no one in any position of responsibility is at fault. It’s not lying. But it’s not exactly the whole truth, certainly not the whole story. All she left out was that part about asking us to respect the privacy of those involved. Oh, I’m sorry. I got the government spin mixed up with the Tiger spin.
“Here is the difference. Tiger can hire as many people as he wants to make his excuses. It may do him no good but it’s his money to spend as he wishes. When government officials insult us with spin they’re doing it on our dime, which is supposed to be used to operate the government, not to hold news conferences to tell us what a fine job people on the public payroll are doing.
“As we learned during Katrina, self-serving spin at the first sign of crisis does not help the situation. It makes it worse. Because it makes it harder to believe anything the government says. Real security is built on trust in government. That requires truth, which should be the beginning of government presentations, not the fallback position.”
I’ll add this. To me, the Bush administration began its descent on one bright, hot sunny day down in Alabama when the former president uttered those immortal words that every human knew was complete bullshit.
No, it wasn’t a heckuva job. It may not have been Brown’s fault, or the federal government’s fault. Personally, I think the only organization that could have responded properly and rapidly was the Navy or the Marines. But that’s beside the point. The point is, it wasn’t a “heckuva job” that was being done down in New Orleans, and everybody knew it. Just like everybody knows that the “system” did not “work”.
Spin has a tipping point. Use it too much, and suddenly nobody believes a thing you’re saying. The country forgave Bush for not connecting the dots, and for a time, they forgave him for not finding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. But once he was exposed as a bullshit artist, every criticism, right or wrong, stuck. I think Obama runs the risk of having the same thing happen to him.