Fermes ta gueule

In the latest in a string of antidissent diatribes, the U.S. ambassador tells Canadians to put a cork in it.

By Tim Grieve

Published December 15, 2005 4:21PM (EST)

We've got a question, and it's only a little bit rhetorical. Who, exactly, is allowed to be critical of the Bush administration these days?

We know it's not the Democrats. As Joe Lieberman said the other day, Democrats who distrust Geoge W. Bush need to "acknowledge he'll be commander in chief for three more years" because "we undermine the president's credibility at our nation's peril."

We know it's not senators who believe that the Bush administration manipulated prewar intelligence. As Dick Cheney explained last month, it's "irresponsible" for them to speak out about their "dishonest and reprehensible" views.

We know it's not the United Nations. As John Bolton said the other day in remarks intended for the U.N.'s high commissioner on human rights, "It is inappropriate and illegitimate for an international civil servant to second-guess the conduct that we're engaged in in the war on terror with nothing more as evidence than what she reads in the newspapers."

We know it's not peace activists or other antiwar groups. As NBC News reported this week, the Pentagon is monitoring even the smallest gatherings as "threats" and "suspicious incidents."

And now we know it's not our neighbors to the north, either. As Josh Marshall notes, the U.S. ambassador to Canada told Canadians this week that they should tone down their anti-Bush rhetoric -- or else. "It may be smart election-year politics to thump your chest and constantly criticize your friend and your No. 1 trading partner," David Wilkins said at the Canada Club in Ottawa. "But it is a slippery slope, and all of us should hope that it doesn't have a long-term impact on our relationship."

Wilkins may not know much about Canada -- before he got the ambassadorship, he'd visited the country only once, on a trip to Niagra Falls. But he certainly knows a thing or two about the value of long-term relationships. An old Bush family friend, Wilkins raised more than $200,000 for the president's 2004 reelection campaign. Which means, apprently, that he's pretty much free to say whatever he wants.

Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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Canada Dick Cheney George W. Bush War Room