Two-thirds of the way into Oprah's apologizing-for-James-Frey show yesterday, New York Times columnist Frank Rich came on to bash Bush. Invited on to revisit his latest Times column, Rich said Frey and Bush, like Nick Lachey's and Jessica Simpson's MTV-televised marriage (followed by divorce), were both part of an age of undermining reality:
"I mean we live in this word now where this is just sort of the tip of the iceberg, this memoir, where anyone can sort of put out something that sort of looks true, smells a little bit like truth but, in fact, is in some way fictionalized. You look at anything from Enron fooling people and creating this aura of a great business making huge profits when it was an empty shell, or people in the government telling us that mushroom clouds are going to come our way if we don't invade Iraq for months when it was on faulty and possibly suspect intelligence."
(To be precise, the 2002 line from Condoleezza Rice and others was about a possible Iraqi nuclear program: "we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.")
My comparatively apolitical wife, who TiVos the Oprah daily, was confused as to why Oprah and others would be so hard on James Frey for lying in his memoir when they weren't this hard on President Clinton for lying under oath in the Paula Jones deposition. The answer is all about their inverse importance: liberals thought keeping President Clinton was an urgent national (and political) priority, so the lying was much more excusable.