Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Nation as Head Case

Joe Lieberman and Frank Rich agree about something: America is mentally ill.

"We are a people in clinical depression," Rich writes in his New York Times column today. Sen. Lieberman dissents slightly, saying it is only Democrats who are “politically paranoid.”

Depressed or paranoid, according to the good doctors, we have to pull up our socks and get our heads straight.

But our mood disorder may be more like the "national malaise" Jimmy Carter diagnosed, which lifted as soon as he left the Oval Office.

After seven years of Bush-Cheney syndrome, who wouldn't be more than a little crazed? At Johns Hopkins University the other day, Dr. Lieberman presented “a case study in the distrust and partisan polarization that now poisons our body politic on even the most sensitive issues of national security.”

The Bush-Cheney quack cites "wild conspiracy theories" of left-winger bloggers that the Kyl-Lieberman Amendment was an excuse to attack Iran. After Iraq, he contends, only mad people could suspect that.

More evidence of political derangement, from the other direction, is Rich's equating the Democrats' confirmation of Martin Mukasey as Attorney General with what Pervez Musharraf is doing in Pakistan.

Rich, normally a voice of reason, goes off the rails today asserting that Sens. Schumer and Feinstein were "willing to sacrifice principles to head off the next ticking bomb" in approving Mukasey without his condemnation of waterboarding in a way somehow parallel to Musharraf's power grab in Pakistan.

Metaphors can stretch only so far without getting nutty. The Administration's madness should not become a contagion that keeps critics from making the distinction between the repression of a dictator and a political compromise over starting to undo some of Bush's damage to the US Justice Department.

That way lies madness.

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