Love for Sale

By MAUREEN DOWD

New York Times

January 27, 2005

I'm herewith resigning as a member of the liberal media elite.

I'm joining up with the conservative media elite.

They get paid better.

First comes news that Armstrong Williams got nearly a quarter of a million from the Education Department to plug No Child Left Behind.

The families of soldiers killed in Iraq get a paltry $12,000. But good publicity? Priceless.

Mr. Williams helped out the first President Bush and Clarence Thomas during the Anita Hill scandal. Mr. Williams, who served as Mr. Thomas's personal assistant at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission when the future Supreme Court justice was gutting policies that would help blacks, gleefully attacked Professor Hill, saying, "Sister has emotional problems," and telling The Wall Street Journal "there is a thin line between her sanity and insanity."

Now we learn from media reporter Howard Kurtz that syndicated columnist Maggie Gallagher had a $21,500 contract from the Health and Human Services Department to work on material promoting the agency's $300 million initiative to encourage marriage. Ms. Gallagher earned her money, even praising Mr. Bush in print as a "genius" at playing "daddy" to the nation. "Mommies feel your pain," she wrote in 2002. "Daddies give you confidence that you can ignore the pain and get on with life."

Genius? Not so much. Spendthrift? Definitely. W.'s administration was running up his astounding deficit paying "journalists" to do what they would be happy to do for free - just to be friends with benefits, getting access that tougher scribes are denied. Consider Charles Krauthammer, who went to the White House on Jan. 10 for what The Washington Post termed a "consultation" on the inaugural speech and then praised the Jan. 20th address on Fox News as "revolutionary," said Media Matters, a liberal watchdog group.

I still have many Christmas bills to pay. So I'd like to send a message to the administration: THIS SPACE AVAILABLE. I could write about the strong dollar and the shrinking deficit. Or defend Torture Boy, I mean, the esteemed and sage Alberto Gonzales. Or remind readers of the terrific job Condi Rice did coordinating national security before 9/11 - who could have interpreted a memo titled "Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States" as a credible threat? - not to mention her indefatigable energy obscuring information undercutting the vice president's dementia on Iraq.

My preference is to get a contract with Rummy. It would be cost effective, compared with the latest $80 billion he needs to train more Iraqi security forces to be blown up. For half a mil, I could write a doozy of a column promoting Rummy's phantasmagoric policies.

What is all this hand-wringing about the 31 marines who died in a helicopter crash in Iraq yesterday? It's only slightly more than the number of people who died in traffic accidents in California last Memorial Day. The president set the right tone, avoiding pathos when asked about the crash. "Obviously," he said, "any time we lose life it is a sad moment."

Who can blame Rummy for carrying out policies of torture? We're in an information age. Information is power. If people are not giving you the intelligence you want, you have to customize to get the intelligence you want to hear.

That's why Rummy also had to twist U.S. laws to secretly form his own C.I.A. A Pentagon memo said Rummy's recruited agents could include "notorious figures," whose ties to the U.S. would be embarrassing if revealed, according to The Washington Post. Why shouldn't a notorious figure like Rummy recruit notorious figures?

I could write a column denouncing John McCain for trying to call hearings into Rummy's new spy unit, suggesting the senator is just jealous because Rummy's sexy enough to play James Bond.

The president might need my help as well. He looked out of it yesterday when asked why his foreign policy is so drastically different from the one laid out in Foreign Affairs magazine in 2000 by Ms. Rice - a preview that did not emphasize promoting democracy and liberty around the world. "I didn't read the article," Mr. Bush said.

Why should he? Robert McNamara never read the Pentagon Papers. Why should W. bone up on his own foreign policy?

Freedom means the freedom to be free from reading what you promise voters and other stuff. I could make that case - if the price was right.