Joe Conason's Journal

Before he became a vaunted White House turncoat, DiIulio openly criticized the Bush administration for its lack of compassion.

By Salon Staff
Published December 4, 2002 5:08PM (EST)

A text for Kissinger
Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon's "The Age of Sacred Terror" must be at the top of the required reading list as we prepare for any attempted whitewash of 9/11 by Kissinger. I will have much more to say about this important book. For now, it is worth noting that the authors, former directors of the National Security Council's counterterrorism program, reveal much about the foibles and failures of the FBI under Louis Freeh and the severe, largely ignored warnings about al-Qaida that Clinton's staff provided to the incoming Bush administration. Its index provides the beginnings of a witness list -- which can be measured against whatever Kissinger, George Mitchell and their commission does.

Readers in the New York metropolitan area (including Connecticut and northern New Jersey) who have DirecTV service can see Daniel Benjamin interviewed on "Digital Age" this evening at 7:30 p.m. on WNYE/Channel 25. Elsewhere, consult the local listings at the DirecTV Web site.
[3:30 p.m. PST, Dec. 4, 2002]

Before DiIulio's "darkness at noon"
If the Washington press corps were able to even feign an interest in policy rather than personalities, they could read John DiIulio's critique of "compassionate conservatism," which appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer last Sunday. That was before Monday's "Darkness at Noon" -- when Ari Fleischer told reporters at the midday briefing that DiIulio's devastating portrait of domestic policymaking by Karl Rove was "baseless and groundless," only to be followed within hours by DiIulio himself abjectly agreeing that his remarks were "groundless and baseless."

The DiIulio Op-Ed in the Inquirer isn't gossipy and doesn't include cute nicknames like "Mayberry Machiavelli." It's concerned with the Bush administration's failure to fulfill the president's campaign promises to the poor. DiIulio, a devout Catholic, respected academic and serious man, took those promises seriously.

"But neither before Sept. 11 nor since," the former White House staffer writes of Bush, "has his noble, compassionate conservative vision been matched by equally compassionate domestic policies and social welfare initiatives."

What is missing from the Bush agenda? Despite his quaking bout of cowardice, DiIulio has ideas that deserve discussion. His dissent is particularly valuable at a time when the economic downturn is hurting working and poor families that had only begun to prosper from the now-exploded boom.

He makes a compelling case for seven immediate reforms, from guaranteeing health insurance for every American child to emergency revenue sharing with the nation's financially desperate cities. Tom DeLay and Trent Lott aren't interested -- and neither is George W. Bush. So maybe DiIulio should take back the vital organs he forfeited the other day, take a deep breath -- and admit that "compassionate conservatism" was a campaign chimera.
[(9:01 p.m. PST, Dec. 4, 2002]

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