January 30th, 2006

Monday Must-Read Sentence: GOP Types Duke It Out

by Philip Baruth

The VDB Monday Must-Read Sentence is a highly competitive affair — that we knew. But only the News-Obsessed Ectomorphs who slave from Friday dusk to Monday dawn, culling that precious single line from ton after ton of raw journalistic ore, know exactly how competitive.

Case in point: CNN this past Sunday.

First came Senator Chuck Hagel (R-Neb and bit-chomping Republican candidate for President), speaking on Sunday’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos.

Asked the hot Abramhoff question — should the Bush administration release details of White House meetings with the disgraced lobbyist, including photos — Hagel served up some USDA-Choice MMRS: “‘Get it out. Get it out. Come on,’ Hagel said, adding the photos will eventually leak out anyway.”

In his excitement, of course, Hagel broke out the MMRS into three nominally independent units, but VDB read it as a single impassioned statement of disgust.

And we were impressed. It looked like a done deal — MMRS to Hagel.

But Bush spokesman Dan Bartlett came out to play Sunday.

And he waited until the wee hours, and then pounced. Speaking on CNN’s Late Edition, Bartlett unleashed a line that was not only breathtakingly Nixonian, but fiercely indeterminate in its grammar.

This time the issue was warrantless wiretaps: Should we have an honest debate about the warrantless wiretapping program, about whether Bush embodies extra-Constitutional power?

No, Bartlett argued — additional briefings and debate with Congress could risk security by tipping off the enemy.

There’s no way that we can confidently say that by having a debate about changing the law would not unearth new operational details that would only tell the enemy exactly how we’re surveilling them — and that’s something that is just unacceptable.

Hagel made news, but Bartlett made history — for arguing outright that Americans no longer have the ability to challenge the Executive Branch in any forum, or through any representative, and this for their own collective good. cheney

So hearty congratulations to Dan Bartlett. You pulled it out in the clutch, and you’ll always have that to remember — after you’re eventually sidelined by the Vice President’s inner-circle for making an infinitesimal slip in doctrine, forced to retire, audited relentlessly by the good docile folks at the IRS and the Justice Department, and then thrown into a death-like coma when your local pharmacist misreads your Medicare D eligibility, a coma from which you slip unaware into death itself, as into a soothing dream of a better, kinder, quieter world.