American Proscenium

Shirking Responsibility

The nasty fight between Richard Clarke and manifold Bush officials quickly took on a “he said/she said” quality as greater violence enveloped Iraq.  National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice gave a strong performance before the September 11 Commission, but the celebrated August 2001 briefing memo warning of an Al Qaeda attack weakened her case.

Neither side likely possesses a monopoly on the truth.  Both seem to possess selective memories.  The Bush administration, however, starts with a self-inflicted disadvantage, which even its supporters overlook at their peril: The President has routinely undercut his own credibility.

For instance, while Mr. Clarke was making his case before the September 11 Commission, Medicare’s chief actuary, Richard Foster, was telling the House Ways and Means Committee that he shared estimates of the burgeoning cost of the proposed Medicare drug bill with administration officials last summer.  Yet former Medicare administrator Thomas Scully threatened to fire Foster if the latter released the estimates to Congress.  “We can’t let that get out,” Foster says Scully told him.  Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson has  reluctantly ordered an investigation, but that is not nearly enough.

Scully has denied the charge, claiming that his threat to fire Foster was made in jest, but he does admit that he ordered ...

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