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February 25, 2005
Chait Picks Wrong Example For Argument

Jonathan Chait takes on the Bush Administration by claiming that it turns its former associates-cum-critics into Stepford Wives, zombie-like creatures who follow set patterns of behavior after renouncing their heresies and slowly lurching into the sunset. Unfortunately for Chait's rather silly analysis, he relies on Doug Wead as a fulcrum for his point, which causes it to collapse rather quickly:

Earlier this week, Wead was proclaiming that he made his tapes of Bush public for the sake of "history." Perhaps the large pile of money he stood to gain from his forthcoming book also factored into his decision. But within a couple days he was desperately backpedaling. On Wednesday, he announced that "I have come to realize that personal relationships are more important than history." He pledged to direct all book profits to charity and to hand the tapes over to Bush.

Most presidents have to face betrayal sooner or later. (See John Dean revealing Nixon's cover-up, or David Stockman revealing the underside of Reagan's fiscal policies.) What's uncanny about the Bush administration is that its dissidents invariably recant, usually in zombie-like fashion.

What's uncanny about Chait is that he doesn't bother to do his research before writing the article. Wead has never been a "dissident" in the Bush administration -- he's never even held a job with Bush, either in a campaign or in the administration. Wead supposedly befriended Bush in 1998, although as the New York Times reported after listening to the tapes, he certainly tried his best to get a position with him. (Wead served in Bush 41's administration.) Wead also didn't criticize President Bush; he wrote a book about his upbringing, one that almost entirely escaped notice.

All of this makes Chait's argument rather pointless, as does his inclusion of John Weaver, John McCain's chief strategist. Weaver may have dissented from the Bush administration -- Lord knows McCain does at the first faint whirr of a camera -- but he's hardly been an outspoken critic of Bush. He's a behind-the-scenes guy who had a beef with Karl Rove more than George Bush, and that hardly makes him the kind of person that requires a Stepford treatment. Ignoring him is much simpler, except during election cycles when Bush needs his help ... and I suspect that the dynamics involved in getting that assistance are directly opposite of what Chait implies in this strange piece.

Besides, unless Chait wants to argue for the moral virtue of wiretapping friends for personal financial gain, the reaction of Wead to the criticism he faced makes perfect sense. Wead received widespread revulsion over his betrayal from the entire political spectrum; in fact, it was one of the few times the Daily Kos and CQ have ever agreed on anything. Chait provides no evidence that the White House ever even approached Wead after the release of the tapes, which also tends to undermine his assertion that the Bush White House has transformed into Zombieland. All Chait does is morph Wead's understandably humiliated apology into a Halloween fantasy entirely sprung from Chait's strange imagination.

I'll grant Chait one passing resemblance between Doug Wead and a Stepford wife. Wead spent the better part of two years screwing someone who trusted him, transforming himself into what he thought Bush wanted in order to please him -- and keep him talking. For that, more than a bit of backpedaling and renunciation seems completely appropriate.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at February 25, 2005 3:50 PM

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