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Haggard and the White House: Both Living in Denial

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Let's face it: the Bush administration is sick. The fall of Ted Haggard is just the latest manifestation of the central disease of President Bush and his cohorts: the pathological refusal to accept reality, and the delusion that reality can be changed by rhetoric.

As Andrew Sullivan said last week on CNN, "this is not an election anymore, it's an intervention."

But while it's the administration that's sick, it's the whole country that's suffering.

How many more examples of this disease do we need? The insurgency is in its "last throes," we've "turned the corner" in Iraq, gutting Social Security would "save" it, global warming doesn't exist, evolution is just "a theory," Rumsfeld and Cheney are "doing a fantastic job" etc., etc., etc.

Mark Foley and Ted Haggard are textbook examples of how the relentless denial of reality perverts judgment and rots the soul. Same with the Bushies.

Was Ted Haggard's absurd claim this week that, yes, he saw Mike Jones, but only for massages and that, yes, he bought meth from Jones but never used it, really that different from Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld continuing to claim we're winning in Iraq?

That both the Reverend's and the administration's claims were made with the expectation that the public would buy them shows what the chronic refusal to acknowledge reality does to one's judgment.

I have little doubt that Haggard's homophobia was real (seen here in a particularly creepy clip), and that his desire to not be gay was real too. But facts are stubborn things. Instead of accepting those facts, Haggard chose to deny them, suppress them, and attack those who exposed them.

Sound like a familiar M.O.? Just before the Haggard hit the fan, the New York Times broke the story about a classified briefing that included a PowerPoint slide, prepared by U.S. Central Command, showing that Iraq was edging closer to "chaos." It's not like that's something the entire world didn't already know. But what was Rumsfeld's response? To start an investigation into who leaked the document.

Doesn't the public have the right to know how close Iraq is to chaos? If Rumsfeld were summoned to Capitol Hill and asked if Iraq were closer or farther to chaos than a year ago, would he lie? I guess we have to assume he would, since, to Rumsfeld, to tell the truth would be giving away "classified" information.

But the larger point is this: it ultimately doesn't matter if Rummy would fess up or not, because facts are facts. That Iraq is in chaos is a fact, and no amount of denying or spinning will change that any more than Ted Haggard's gay bashing will magically make him into a heterosexual.

The refusal by the Bush administration, its supporters in Congress and its "spiritual advisers" to acknowledge reality is sick -- and potentially lethal to the well-being of our country. But it's clear they're not going to get better, because to do so would require they acknowledge reality enough to know they're sick in the first place. And they're not going to do that. They actually believe there's an alternative to the "reality-based world," and that they live in it.

Yesterday, the New Life church fired Ted Haggard as its pastor because they felt it was "proven without a doubt that he has committed sexually immoral conduct."

Those darn facts again, coming home to roost.

The country can't rid itself of Bush until 2008, but on Tuesday it can begin to get rid of this sickness.