Molly Ivins

Noshing on the News


The National Intelligence Estimate, agreed upon by 16 Bush-controlled spy services within the U.S. government, says the war in Iraq is making the war on terrorism harder and worse. It gives the phrase “leaking intelligence” a new meaning (a line not original with me).

We’ve been having a debate in this country about whether to continue the war—or “the comma,” as the president calls it—until it has become a semicolon. Now the debate is over, and what we need to discuss is the best way out. This war is not a goddamn comma.

According to the Associated Press, the directors of the Legal Services Corp., a program for poor people, have been trying to get rid of their inspector general, who has clocked them for, among other things, expensive meals, using limousine services, and wasting money on ritzy headquarters.

The board members said the inspector general had a “fetish” for independence (how horrible) and that he’s a character assassin backed by a delusional staff, and so forth. While this was going on, half of the poor clients applying for legal services were rejected.

The AP reports that the Education Department has ignored the law and ethical standards to steer money the way it wants. The billion-dollar-a-year Reading First program is apparently riddled with problems, including political favoritism, conflicts of interest, and mismanagement.

In a hair-raising memo, the director of Reading First, Chris Doherty, wrote members of the staff at the Department of Education regarding one company, “They are trying to crash our party, and we need to beat the (expletive) out of them in front of all the other would-be party crashers who are standing on the front lawn waiting to see how we welcome these dirtbags.”

Doherty recently resigned from the department “to return to the private sector,” a spokeswoman said. Isn’t that nice? I kind of wish he was back in government helping to answer the eternal mystery, “Is our children learning?”

For the second time since August, the Army is extending the combat tours of thousands of soldiers beyond the promised 12 months. This time, it’s nearly 4,000 soldiers in the 1st Brigade, 1st Armored.

Again in Iraq, the Army chief of staff is refusing to submit a budget because he says he needs billions more dollars before the Army can meet its obligations. He will surely get help from ol’ “anything they ask for” Bush.

The question is: Can these people run anything right? The other question is: Is there anything they can’t screw up?

I don’t know about you, but I think the education deal has me more upset. I mean, we already knew the Big Comma was producing a backlash, didn’t we, really? Where are we now—2,700 dead Americans, nearly 50,000 dead Iraqis… Come on, that’s at least familiar, what Donald Rumsfeld would call a “known-known.” But stealing money from little kids’ reading programs? What is that about?

Iraq. Bush made a horrible mistake because he knows relatively little. But stacking the bidding in favor of a reading program that may not be the best available? I suppose the answer is that Republicans (except for Bush) never did think having the feds in education was a good idea.

I’m ready to settle for a bar of common decency. Lead us into an insane war, get the troops killed, lie about whatever you want, eat fancy meals on the government tab ($14 for a chocolate dessert?), but please, oh please, do not rig the bids for reading material for our adorable little children, who will soon be appearing with President Bush in a rainbow of colors in ads dreamed up by Karl Rove. Kids are really great for photo ops.

Molly Ivins is a nationally syndicated columnist. Her most recent book with Lou Dubose is Bushwhacked: Life in George W. Bush’s America (Random House).