Daily Kos
Political analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation

Tuesday | December 03, 2002

The John DiIulio saga

Ah, 'tis your typical DC story.

Boy is Jesus freak and loves governor. Boy helps governor get elected president. Boy works for the president. Boy quits in disgust. Boy vents to a reporter, calling his former employers "Mayberry Machiavellis". White House snaps its fingers. Kneecaps are broken. Boy recants and issues bizarre apology.

Ahh, but unlike the spineless rags that abdicate their journalistic responsibilities, Esquire (who is running this story) has no interest in backing down in the face of White House pressure. And this is where the story gets interesting.

At the center of the storm is John DiIulio, who was the guy behind Bush's "Faith-based Initiative". Many press accounts call him a Democrat, but by his own account, he was and is a strong and active supporter of the president. In fact, DiIulio wrote several speeches for both Bush the candidate, and Bush the president.

However, DiIulio had the temerity to discuss his White House experiences to a reporter from Esquire magazine. And while he continues to have kind words for Bush, the president's White House operation was brutally savaged.

The Bushies were not amused and strongarmed an "apology" from DiIulio -- an apology, curiously, issued not by him, but by his employer -- the University of Pennsylvania. (The conspiracy theorists will have a field day with this one...)

But the Esquire editors weren't about to be cowed -- the Esquire homepage declares that they are standing "strongly behind [author] Suskind", and to bolster their writer's case in the face of Fleischer's usual attacks, published DiIulio's "confidential" source email verbatim.

Read the email. For someone who clearly worships the ground Bush walks on (DiIulio waxes poetic on Bush's "goodness"), he has some incredibly harsh things to say about Rove and the Bush White House.

In eight months, I heard many, many staff discussions, but not three meaningful, substantive policy discussions. There were no actual policy white papers on domestic issues. There were, truth be told, only a couple of people in the West Wing who worried at all about policy substance and analysis, and they were even more overworked than the stereotypical, non-stop, 20-hour-a-day White House staff. Every modern presidency moves on the fly, but, on social policy and related issues, the lack of even basic policy knowledge, and the only casual interest in knowing more, was somewhat breathtakingódiscussions by fairly senior people who meant Medicaid but were talking Medicare; near-instant shifts from discussing any actual policy pros and cons to discussing political communications, media strategy, et cetera. Even quite junior staff would sometimes hear quite senior staff pooh-pooh any need to dig deeper for pertinent information on a given issue.


This gave rise to what you might call Mayberry Machiavellisóstaff, senior and junior, who consistently talked and acted as if the height of political sophistication consisted in reducing every issue to its simplest, black-and-white terms for public consumption, then steering legislative initiatives or policy proposals as far right as possible.

This is brutal stuff, and I CAN'T WAIT to buy the magazine. Joe Conason thinks the story has legs. I'm not that optimistic -- if Fox News doesn't saturate their network with a story, it doesn't seem to exist. It will be interesting how the right-wing cabal responds to this story. I may actually make one of my rare journeys into Sullivan and Kaus territory to check it out. It's not a $100+ haircut by Kerry, but still, it should worthy a mention.

If nothing else, it would be nice if the story shamed the buffoons in the White House press corps into practicing some real journalism, rather than just rewrite White House press releases (which is all they've done the past two years). I'm not going to hold my breath, but miracles do happen.

DiIulio is proof of that.

Posted December 03, 2002 03:25 PM | Comments (79)


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