So much competition for the hotly contested title "What Were They Thinking?" this month that, as the kids say, "Shut up!" The number of bonehead plays was so astronomical, one is inclined to wonder if there's anyone left around here with a lick of common sense.
The executives over at American Airlines did some outstanding work. On the same day--same day!--that American's flight attendants voted to give back hundreds of millions of dollars in salary and benefits, the execs announced they had given themselves huge bonuses. They presumably thought they deserved bonuses for their stellar work in driving the company to the edge of bankruptcy. American also provided millions more in extra pension benefits for forty-five top executives.
The company's unions had voted to give back a total package worth $1.62 billion, thousands will lose their jobs, and then they find out the top execs have given themselves pay raises. CEO Donald Carty, who makes $811,000 a year, would have gotten a $1.6 million "executive retention bonus." Happily, the issue of how to retain the invaluable Mr. Carty became moot when he was forced to resign in the face of mayhem and havoc threatened by the unions.
Another splendid example of how not to handle a problem was set by our Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Mr. Manners himself. The Iraqi National Museum was looted by thieves after the DOD ignored pleas from archaeologists who had repeatedly warned of just that danger. At which point, any civilized government would say, "What a terrible thing: We're so sorry that happened. Even though it was not our fault, we--like all civilized people--regret and mourn the irreplaceable loss to the history of civilization." That's all that was needed.
Instead, Rumsfeld became defensive and then sarcastic, trying to belittle the loss. "My goodness," he said, affecting astonishment, "were there that many vases? Is it possible there were that many vases in the whole country?"
Is that what one says about the loss of artifacts from 7,000 years of civilization? Is this really the face of America we want to show the rest of the world?
The Bush Administration granting contracts to rebuild Iraq to Dick Cheney's former firm, Halliburton, and the Republican-connected-out-the-wazoo Bechtel Group of San Francisco--hey, nice work. Why should the Bushies care about how anything looks? Screw impropriety: We own the world.
We knew going in this was going to be the peace from hell, and so far the Administration has made every misstep possible. Did it occur to no one that the fact that Rumsfeld's chosen puppet, Ahmad Chalabi, is a convicted embezzler, sentenced in absentia to twenty-two years in prison in Jordan, might prove a bit sticky? Might even be perceived by the Arab world as a colossal insult?
George W. Bush deserves a salute for lying to Tony Blair in Northern Ireland, promising the United Nations would have a major role in rebuilding Iraq and then waiting two whole days before making it clear the U.N. would have no role. Bush didn't just stab Blair in the back, he gutted and filleted him. So much for the Bush Administration and loyalty. A sure way to make all our friends anxious to stand up with us next time.
(Also, special mention to the dipsticks in the Administration who prepared the briefing books for the Northern Ireland trip, which were clearly labeled, "Belfast, Ireland," thus adding to Bush's well-established reputation as someone who can't tell one country from another.)
Worst Idea of the Month: Fundamentalist Christian missionaries are now salivating over the prospect of going to Iraq to convert the hapless heathen. This is guaranteed to make America as popular as the clap.