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December 10, 2007

Oh Dana!
Posted by Michael Cohen

I have something to share with the Democracy Arsenal readership: I have a little thing for Dana Perino.

Sure every word out of her mouth is practically a lie; sure she is a mouthpiece for a corrupt and immoral administration . . . but what can I say, I have a thing for smoky blondes.  Also, she has many positive attributes, aside from her good looks. She never loses her composure; she always has a smile on her face; she has constructed an alternative reality of American statecraft and she has never once wavered from it; she is nattily clad and she wears great necklaces - can anyone say the same thing about Marlin Fitzwater. I think not! It always pains me when the Bushies trot out poor Dana to read the latest White House lies . . . err, I mean talking points. Apparently, I'm not alone.

So it is with great sorrow that I must bring to the attention of Democracy Arsenal readers that sweet, sweet Dana is kind of an idiot. This week she received a question that referenced the Cuban Missile Crisis and Dana was flat-footed . . . because apparently Dana has never heard of the Cuban Missile Crisis. This from Tim Grieve at

Appearing on NPR's "Wait, Wait ... Don't Tell Me" over the weekend, Perino said she "panicked" when she got the Cuban missile crisis question because she wasn't exactly sure what the Cuban missile crisis was. "I really know nothing about the Cuban missile crisis," Perino said. "It had to do with Cuba and missiles, I'm pretty sure."

Now in fairness, you have to give Dana credit for exhibiting some really excellent deductive reasoning here. It takes a special kind of person to figure out that the Cuban Missile Crisis had to do with both Cuba and missiles (although it is distressing that she didn't reference the fact that this was a "crisis" but honestly two out of three is not bad).

But the best part of the story was that she went home to discuss the day's events with her husband (the luckiest man in Washington) and was able to reference another historical event involving Cuba.

Perino said she went home that night and asked her husband, "Wasn't that, like, the Bay of Pigs thing?" And he said, 'Oh, Dana.'"

 Oh Dana, indeed!


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I'll be she remembers the Cuban sandwich crisis

Your post reads as though you think she doesn't know what's she's doing when she acts as spokesperson for the Bush administration. I wonder if you would make the same kind of condescending remarks about a man in that job; even if he was as ignorant of history as she apparently is.

Tim, I think you've missed the joke . . .

Thanks for the humorous take on this comment. I've been getting a laugh out of the more wonkish bloggers. The wonkloggers seem to be arguing that an in-depth knowledge of some convoluted historical interpretation of the then-secret documents on the Cuban Missile Crisis is absolutely crucial to Perino's job.

The problem is more simple: The Cuban Missile Crisis is a archetypal event for BOTH liberals and conservatives. For conservatives, it's proof "even liberals can understand the importance of resoluteness in facing down enemy threats" (Bush himself invoked Kennedy in his can't-wait-for-the-proof-to-come-in-the-form-of-a-mushroom-cloud speech). For liberals it's proof that resolute diplomacy trumps resolute military action. One cannot participate in foreign-policy discussions without hearing the Russian missiles in Cuba come up (any more than one can participate in such discussions without knowing what people mean when they use the word "Munich" to reference the dangers of appeasement).

There are only two possible explanations: Either Dana Perino has never participated in such discussions or she just nodded when the words "Cuban Missile Crisis" came up in such discussions when they did come up.

Think about it. She conflated the missile crisis with the Bay of Pigs? Can you imagine two more contrasting events to confuse?

Every president is tempted when he (or she) first takes office. They are presented with an array of facts to which they previously had no access and with an array of options including covert options they could never have had before. The temptation to play toy soldiers with the CIA or the military almost always proves irresistable.

The Bay of Pigs was Kennedy's irresistable temptation. He learned from it. He learned that America will always have a War Party advocating military action. (Did I say America? If you read the Book of Jeremiah or the Book of Baruch in that document which Bush sometimes pretends to adhere, you will see the War Party long predates the Constitution of the United States.) He learned that, while a president should always listen to the War Party, a good president always considers other options.

President Kennedy applied those lessons to the Cuban Missile Crisis, kept the War Party's options on the table, while engaging in some hard-nosed diplomacy behind the scenes.

And got a far better result than the Bay of Pigs.

For those who are despairing of the state of American education (or of the Colorado eduation) which enabled Perino to reach her current position without awareness of the Cuban Missile Crisis, I asked a student from that same system this morning if he knew what the crisis was about. He gave a two-sentence answer that showed a deep understanding of not only what we knew about the crisis at the time, but a familiarity with The Kennedy Tapes and the insights which have come from their release.

I'm afraid this one is all on Perino.

But it is tempting to suggest that such an ignorance of recent history is perfect in a spokeswoman for an administration as out of touch with reality as the Bush administration.

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