As the Bush administration trots out wholly implausible deniability over its commander in chief's detachment from American intelligence findings, something far more troublesome inhabits the land: those millions of Americans who have settled into a state of denial about their recidivist president and his handlers. Nearly axiomatic is that anyone caught in a fix of his own making deserves a second chance, yet much of the public has given the Bush Two administration third, fourth, tenth, umpteenth chances to conduct itself honorably. Yet every next chance brings only more deceit from the incorrigible Bushies -- and the public then punches the administration's ticket once again.
The complex causes of our collective denial are for another day, although the pathological effect is simple, inescapable and in need of hasty broadcast from every hilltop: American democracy is imperiled from both above and below. The autocratic fox runs free while each chicken assures the other with the immortal last words of H.G. Wells: "Go away. I'm all right." Left unchecked, democracy is toast.
Our capacity to be informed and stay informed dwindles daily as the doublespeak crowd further encroaches on open and honest government. The press, God knows, is out to lunch when not in bed with the Bushies, leaving only the public to demand accountability. To date there's been a deplorable shortage of such a demand. Denial may be easier for the time being, but it's a cumulative and lethal poison to a democratic body.
There endures no reasonable reason for the electorate's state of denial. Like some conscience-void timeshare salesman, Bush Inc. since Day One has dissembled about virtually everything of import. That history is long and well known, even if dismissed. The administration's latest rhetorical whopper, however, should be enough to convince not only moderates but heretofore administration-loyal conservatives that when it comes to governing honorably, the White House wild bunch is beyond all hope.
When the president's national security adviser insults thoughtful observers by splitting the finest of rhetorical hairs -- sure, the Africa thing was pure rubbish, "but the statement that [the president] made was indeed accurate" -- and when his top man at Defense plays similar word games about a presidential lie being "technically correct," one wonders if these pettifogging pooh-bahs could have any respect left for themselves. We know they have none for us.
And when the leader of the free world brushes aside answerability for thousands of unnecessary deaths and the torching of principled interventionism by saying that the end justified the means -- so why dwell now on all those prewar arguments he huckstered -- then all of us, right down to every conscientious conservative still standing, can conclude with flawless justification that this administration is unredeemable. (And do keep in mind, "the end" now praised by the president is $4 billion a month flushed into the Tigris and a dead American a day.) No longer is there any supportable reason for any American to give Bush II any further benefit of the doubt. Doing so amounts to a self-revocation of Jeffersonian civic virtue and vigilance.
In a recent Washington Post op-ed piece, the far from radical former secretary of state, Madeleine K. Albright, synopsized with chilling clarity our present condition. "Three years ago, America had vast diplomatic capital based on the goodwill we enjoyed around the world, and vast financial capital based on our international economic leadership and a record budget surplus. Now our capital of all kinds has been dissipated and we are left with more intractable dilemmas than resources or friends."
The global community saw some time ago that this administration is not only untrustworthy, it actually goes out of its way to be devious. If ever our international friends were in a state of denial, their cognitive plight was a short-lived one.
Not so here. Too many Americans are stuck in the pathology of chronic denial; nevertheless it has grown too implausible to last much longer. Something must give.
-Mr. Carpenter holds a Ph.D. in American History from the University of Illinois and is a syndicated columnist.