Russell's Blog

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The Common Thread of Failure

Posted by Russell on July 12, 2007 at 3:03 a.m.
A few days ago, a skunk died behind my house. Even a tiny whiff of the sent carries the unmistakable note of death. The smell is caused by two compounds, cadaverine and putricine, which form as a result of protein hydrolysis during putrefaction of animal tissue.

The testimony of Richard H. Carmona before Congress about his term as Surgeon General is tainted with an all-too-familiar stink. It's like catching the cadaverine-putricine whiff of decaying flesh while walking in the garden. There can be no mistake about what it signifies.

There is a common thread that runs among this sad episode and the US attorney purge, the Katrina disaster, the Libby/Wilson/Plame/Armitage clusterfuck, the missing WMDs, Abu Garib and the generally brain-dead strategy of the Iraq war.

This administration doesn't know what a civil servant is.

As we are reminded ad nausium, US attorneys, the surgeon general, the secretary of defense, and everyone else in the executive branch serves "at the pleasure of the president." This is true, in a general sense. What the administration doesn't understand is that this does not mean that these people serve to please the president.

It is the job of the president to choose the best technocrats he or she can find. Once installed, it is the job of the president to insure that these people can practice their trade. But this administration believes it knows the law better than the US attorneys it hires, military planning better than the War College, foreign intelligence better than its own intelligence analysts, disaster planning and emergency response better than FEMA, operational security better than the CIA, interrogation and detention practices better than the military police, and medicine better than its own surgeon general.

But they don't. No politician could. That's why we have experts.

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