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Local Government This Week in Politics


Columnist Dennis Maley runs down the week's big local, state and national political stories in this exclusive TBT feature. This week, should the General Petraeus scandal be a big deal? Is U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice being scapegoated? And oh how quickly the GOP has lost its love for Willard M. Romney.

How many of you were surprised when it turned out that the Petraeus fiasco had a local link? If so, you must be new to the area. It seems you just can't have a sleazy scandal without setting a scene in SW Florida. Just weeks after we botched yet another Presidential election and not long enough after Casey Anthony caught the world's attention, the Sunshine State was back in the tabloid news with another story containing the all-too common elements of adultery, credit card debt and fake millionaires.

The best joke came from HBO's Bill Maher who said of Jill Kelly: “The media called her a Tampa socialite. What's that, someone who eats at Applebees and orders the filet?”

Seriously, do I care what the General or anyone else in public office does in their bedroom, assuming it's consensual and doesn't involve a child? No. But did Petraeus need to step down? Absolutely. It's a major security issue when the CIA director puts himself in that sort of position. That sort of dirt opens up the door for a whole host of problems from blackmail to leaked intelligence.

A four-star general understands this. The fact that he still exercised such poor judgment, demonstrates why he no longer needs to be in that position. The country owes him a debt of gratitude for his services and the significant contribution he's made to our Armed Forces, but it's time to wander off into what I'm sure will be a highly-lucrative “retirement.”


Susan Rice is the punching bag of the week, but let's not rush to judgment on her role in the Benghazi debacle. Let's also not forget that the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations was pinch hitting for the Secretary of State when she made the Sunday morning talk show rounds giving prepared talking points on the attack on the U.S embassy there. Anyone who thinks that someone in that position is doing anything else than reading tightly-scripted bullet points is deluding themselves.

Now, whether there was something more to the fact that Secretary of State Clinton was not delivering them herself, or whether there was a deliberate effort by whomever prepped Rice to massage those talking points for political gain is a fair question. However, it's not as significant as some Republicans who are trying to make it into a Watergate-like scandal would have you believe.

If you remember, I called baloney on the “protesting a movie” line right from the start. However, I didn't expect to hear everything the intelligence community knew on the attack, because that's not the way intelligence agencies work and Petraeus has since confirmed that her comments were in line with what they were giving the public based on what could be confirmed at the time. So, when is releasing limited information or not releasing new information criminal? That's where things get sticky. But until those up in arms over Rice's talking points acknowledge the hypocrisy of their support for war in Iraq, their outrage is purely hypocritical.

Our government took us to war on information that was known to have been either disproved, inaccurate or even fabricated – yellow cake uranium in Niger; ties between Saddam and 9/11 terrorist Mohamed Atta; WMDs, etc., etc. Before Rice is burned at the stake for reading State Department bullet points, whether they turn out to have been appropriate or not, we should remember some of the doozies we've been told in the past and ask whether we directed our outrage at the messenger.

Colin Powell spooking the UN

And before there's a stink raised on whether or not she can be confirmed as Clinton's replacement at the State Department, Republicans better remember how low of a bar they've set. Condoleeza Rice presided over the greatest intelligence failure in U.S. history, when as National Security Adviser, she failed to use CIA warnings suggesting that Al Queda was determined to attack the U.S. (and might use airplanes) to ramp up security precautions that may have prevented the attacks of September 11 – or even make the TSA aware of the intel for that matter. Not only was she not forced into resignation, but the former Chevron board member was promoted (and confirmed) as Secretary of State.

Also, who can forget then-Secretary of State Colin Powell's farcical testimony to the UN Security Council on drones, viles of Anthrax and an entire rogues gallery of other horrors that helped turn our 9/11 failure into an opportunity to invade Iraq? I don't remember the Republican party expressing any sort of shock or outrage in those instances, so it's going to be pretty hard to accept it when it's aimed at Susan Rice who, like I said, was reading prepared remarks on behalf of someone else's department that she was unlikely to have additional knowledge of.


Republicans were quick to distance themselves from their Presidential nominee who just a couple of weeks ago, came within a couple states of delivering them the White House. Romney's post-defeat call to major donors got some heat for suggesting that he lost because the President promised too many giveaways and concessions to poor people, minorities and immigrants – even though that was pretty much the same thing the GOP was saying on November 7, when they continually blamed the loss on “demographics.” One after another, prominent GOP personalities publicly encouraged Romney to fade off into the ether.

There's been a lot of talk from within about re-branding the party and creating a “wider tent,” but like the “fiscal cliff” talks, it seems the rhetoric is light on specifics. Major Republican personalities made broad assertions on what the party needed to do in the days following Romney's defeat, but most of it centered around how to say the same message, rather than any real discussion over whether too many policies themselves were simply out of step with American society. Simply walking back statements on things like legitimate rape and self-deportation doesn't mean much if the core philosophies remain the same.

More useful, would be genuine introspection on what seems like an obvious conundrum: the message of a small government that stays out of our lives cannot coexist amid a platform in which government asserts itself into all aspects of our lives – reproductive rights, sexual preferences, warrantless wiretapping and other police state tactics, etc. In related news, Marco Rubio suggested the jury was still out on whether the universe is 13.7 billion years old, or a mere 6,000. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Have a great Thanksgiving!


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