“The guy is a worm. He’s a worm.”

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Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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46 Responses

  1. Avatar John Howard Griffin says:

    There are many that swear an oath to the Constitution, not to a person.

    A military officer swears such an oath, and is duty bound to refuse orders from the CinC that go against that oath.

    Loyalty to the president should ALWAYS be secondary to loyalty to the Constitution.

    It is not as clear, in Latimer’s case, that he is defending the Constitution – but “the people” is a useful stand-in for the Constitution. If his book reveals more of the rot – more of the “frat boy” – then that is a good thing for “the people”.Report

    • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

      I guess I fail to see how the president conducts his speech-writing meetings could have any bearing on the Constitution.Report

      • Avatar John Howard Griffin says:

        Really? Truly frightening.

        Let’s see:

        1. “Yellowcake from Nigeria”
        2. “Won’t let inspectors look around”
        3. “We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud”
        Report

        • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

          And so we need to write a book that talks about how George Bush made statements like “I redefined the Republican Party” because that sheds some light on the intelligence failures of the last administration. Is that the leap we’re making?Report

          • Avatar John Howard Griffin says:

            Well, I’m not the one who couldn’t see reasons why the conversations during speech-writing meetings was important.

            Are we saying that insider books about previous administrations are verboten?

            And, yes, I find “I redefined the Republican Party” provides an interesting look into the mind of an unhinged idiot the president. A very cursory unpacking of that statement shows that he thinks that Reagan is no longer important, since he’s redefined the party. I think that’s a big belief for a president to have, and shows some of his delusions of grandeur.Report

            • Avatar Katherine says:

              Are we saying that insider books about previous administrations are verboten?

              Not verboten. But writing a book that doesn’t touch on policy but is basically just a character attack against a highly unpopular former administration is more a sleazy way of getting money and publicity than a valuable contribution to the public good.

              My view: if there’s something really wrong going on within the administration (in the sense of illegalities or blatant untruthfulness on matters of importance like the rationale for going to war), people with knowledge of them have a public duty to resign and speak out. If they simply disagree with policy, writing about that once they’ve left their position can also be useful. But books like McClellan’s (and, I gather from reviews, Latimer’s) aren’t like that – they’re released long after those people could have done anything about it or contributed anything useful and done for the purpose of making money off of an administration’s popularity after having participated in and shilled for its wrongdoing in the first place. Nothing ethical or admirable about it.Report

              • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

                Ah – thank you Katherine for saying what I was trying to say, but in shorter and more succinct form! Tip o’ the hat to you…Report

              • Avatar John Howard Griffin says:

                It is a very short step from your argument to the argument that any books that are critical of the administration (and written by insiders) should not be written, no matter the content.

                It’s amazing that you are decrying the lack of [important] content in a post about lack of loyalty.

                Paging Dr. Mountain, Dr. Molehile…

                Sheldon makes an important point about the balance of fury and truth. A much more important issue than this obsession with chaste and pure loyalty.Report

  2. Avatar Sheldon says:

    I think the anti-Latimer comments here are close to absurd. Bad policies are ok to report on after the fact, but bad character isn’t? The Presidency is all ABOUT character – it is fundamental to the exercise of the office and is the prime determinant of its success or failure. Bush’s cocky shallowness and bullying persona were prime drivers of his failures – the very root of his inability to listen to cautionary voices and home and abroad and to consider that he might be wrong in assessing policy choices. Furthermore, the entire PR apparatus of the White House – in every administration, but especially this one – was designed to present a false picture of Bush, repeatedly denying reports that he was an ignorant, indifferent bully. The fact is that the very vehemence of the attacks against Latimer, especially by Bennett, is itself positive proof that a book like his is essential. Why such a fury over the book if not that Bush’s conservative Republican supporters have a vested interest in maintaining the illusion that Bush was an informed, principled, and effective leader? Latimer’s motives may well be mercenary. But the only thing he betrayed are the lies and illusions crafted by Bush supporters.Report

  3. Avatar EngineerScotty says:

    Lots of people write books where they call out their former boss for various reasons. Some such authors have worked for Democrats, some for Republicans, and some for folks having nothing to do with politics.

    Latimer may well be a sleaze who’s cashing in. (Seems to be a lot of those in the former administration, no?) He might be a guy who’s realized what he was part of is coming clean. Maybe some of both; I’m certainly not discounting the former.

    OTOH, I find the notion that he owes Bush personal loyalty to not criticize the former President, to be a bit beyond the pale. I would think that Latimer–or any administration official–would know what their legal and ethical responsibilities are, but “thou shalt never speak ill of the boss” isn’t, or ought not be, one of them.

    Conor’s point–that Bill Bennett wouldn’t excoriate an ex-Clintonite writing a book blasting Bill (or a future tell-all book against Obama) stands.Report

  4. Avatar Bob says:

    E.D., I’ve no idea what you majored in at college, but I hope to god it was not history or journalism.Report

    • Avatar Bob says:

      May I add, the only meaningful criticism of the book should be the truthfulness of it. If Latimer is telling the truth his motives do not concern me.Report

    • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

      Neither, Bob. Re: truthfulness, let me just say that gossip is the lowest form of discourse. If we hope to form our opinions or our historical truths out of gossip tell-all books, then we’re in trouble. And this applies to any future Obama official as well.Report

    • Avatar Bob says:

      E.D.,

      1. I would rank spreading lies as a lower form of discourse. As far as I know no one accuses Latimer of telling lies, and let me quickly add, I have no idea if the stories are true or false. That is why I said “if.”

      2. You have every right to label Latimer a “gossip” and associate yourself with those calling him a “worm” but you speculating on his motives is close kin to gossip in my book.Report

      • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

        Maybe you’re right, Bob. I suppose his motives may be very pure, and all his tales of Bush’s personality flaws were meant to merely better illuminate the administration’s failures. Still, I find this sort of thing tasteless no matter who it’s about. Gossip is very similar to lies. It spreads someone’s opinions on somebody else as though it were the truth, when in fact it is only masquerading as the truth. It may not be a lie, but it’s a foggy sort of truth.

        I’m not sure that writing an opinion of a guy who wrote a big tell-all book is quite the same thing as gossip, though. I’m not close to Latimer, and revealing some of his dirty laundry. I’m questioning his motives, and the validity of this sort of book in general. Not sure how that’s anywhere close to gossip.Report

    • Avatar Bob says:

      Well look at your words.

      1. You write, “Gossip is very similar to lies. It spreads someone’s opinions on somebody else as though it were the truth, when in fact it is only masquerading as the truth. It may not be a lie, but it’s a foggy sort of truth.”

      2. In speculating on Latimer’s motives aren’t you “spreading” your “opinions” “as though it were the truth.” Hence, by your definition, gossip and at best “foggy…truth.”

      3. This will just be another case where we differ, I *do* see this speculation regarding his motives as close kin to gossip.Report

  5. Avatar Mike says:

    E.D. says “Latimer – Like McClellan before him – was not involved in policy so much as PR.”

    As was Bush, E.D, as was Bush.Report

  6. Avatar Jaybird says:

    The guy can be a sleaze at the same time that it’s good that he gave more stories about what happened.

    Is he biased? Out to make a quick buck? Of course he is.

    Is he telling the truth? If so, then he’s doing a service. At the very least, he isn’t harming anything.

    In any case, you can rest easy knowing that, after a small flurry of sales, the book will be on the remainder tables by Thanksgiving.Report

    • Avatar Bob says:

      “The guy can be a sleaze at the same time that it’s good that he gave more stories about what happened.”

      But is he a “sleaze” *just* because “…he gave more stories about what happened?” And I’m guessing you mean truthful stories for if his stories are fiction masquerading as fact he would be a sleaze. So my answer would be “no.” But I guess you have developed a new category of sleaziness – good sleaze.

      E.D., and others, defame him (“The guy is a worm.”) on account of his disloyalty to Bush, not his veracity.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        But loyalty is not a virtue in and of itself.

        It’s a handmaid of the virtues, certainly… but loyalty to someone who is doing something bad is not a virtue.Report

        • Avatar Bob says:

          You are correct.

          I don’t see how Bennette and E.D. can condemn Latimer’s book on their notion that loyalty trumps everything else.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            Well, his motivations, at the end of the day, are something to the effect of “holy crap, no one on K Street will hire me! This is bullshit, man! Bullshit! If I’m going to make any money at all, it’s going to have to be from writing a tell-all!”

            And, of course, he’s right. No one on K Street will, in fact, hire him. If he wants to make any money at all, it’ll have to be something like this.

            This makes him extremely unsympathetic.

            That said, if the book is accurate, the book is accurate and the book itself needs to be judged on those merits. If it’s mostly crap that doesn’t tell us anything of use (excepting Bush’s thoughts that he redefined the party (?!?)), well… he’s a sleaze who didn’t even tell us anything of use when he rolled over on his former bosses.Report

      • Avatar Bob says:

        “Well, his motivations, at the end of the day, are something to the effect of ‘holy crap, no one on K Street will hire me!'”

        Jaybird, obviously you have information I lack.

        How do you know Latimer failed to secure employment on K Street? How do you know Latimer even sought employment on K Street?

        By your own reckoning Latimer will secure a piddling sum for his efforts. So that does not seem a wise path to follow if one is concerned about future employment.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          I phrased that too strongly. I apologize.

          I am guessing, however, that if he were able to get employment on K Street, he’d not have written a book. It seems to me that this book is, in fact, a retaliatory act. “You won’t take care of me, well… I’ll talk about what happened!”

          Perhaps I am completely and totally misreading the situation. Wouldn’t be the first time.

          “So that does not seem a wise path to follow if one is concerned about future employment.”

          From where I sit, I’d say that Wisdom was this guy’s dump stat.Report

  7. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    While affiliated with a person by employment or voluntary alliance, not undermining the effort in which you serve would seem to be part of a reasonable expectation of loyalty. After service has been rendered and the formal relationship has been severed, then the loyalty of the former associate has either been earned or it hasn’t. I don’t see where this assumption that an automatic obligation of loyalty to former employers (whether the president of the United States or others), of terms and duration to be determined by the outside world, adheres to the subordinate employee after the parties have gone their separate ways comes from or how it can be supported. An excellent relationship with the former associate can establish loyalty, and that can be a beautiful and wonderful thing, but the failure of such a bond to form can hardly be seen as a failing in the person whose services the more powerful party benefitted from. Leaders are rightly judged in part by their capacity to inspire loyalties in their subordinates. Subordinates owe loyalty (as opposed to it merely being an admirable quality in them) to those they serve only as long as they continue to identify with the efforts in whose cause they served.

    Since E.D. has gone out of his way to endorse every word of the colorful condemnations of Latimare by Bennett (and see also James Carville re: Bill Richardson), let’s have just a bit more to be sure the flavor of this species of wretch remains fresh on our palette:

    The lowest circle of hell are for people who are disloyal in the way this guy is disloyal and the very lowest point Satan chews on their bodies. Maybe Scott McClellan will chew on this guy’s leg in the after life. So creepy and so disgusting.”

    Ahhh… refreshing! 😉Report

    • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

      Hmmmm. I don’t know, Michael. It seems to me that no matter how good a leader may be (and I’m not saying Bush was) he will always face greedy subordinates who will use their experience to turn a dime. I just think it’s a scumbag thing to do. I’ve had some bad bosses but I’d never even consider writing this sort of trash about them.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:

        We’ll see what books get written in the future, and how loud the condemnations are then. And, as folks have been saying, no one’s making this guy into some saint. It’s just a question whether this clear-cut code that a lot of people seem to think exists vis-a-vis White House service really does.

        Regarding your personal experience (and mine), first, our former bosses’ good word about our work is still far more valuable to us than any stories we might tell about negative experiences with them. Second, neither of us has had George W. Bush for a boss. I’m not sure either of us can say what we’d do if both those facts were reversed. This guy may feel that rather than enhancing his career prospects, his White House service instead is a stain he is going to have a hard time explaining to people he’d like to work for.

        Can you recall any author who worked in the Clinton White House who a) wrote a memoir that put him in a particularly worse light than he put himself in already AND b) was excoriated by loyalists for it in terms similar to Bennett’s? Even if the excoriation didn’t occur at the time, is there an example of such a Clinton-affiliated author to whom you would be willing to apply Bennett-like condemnation to yourself?

        If your problem is simply that these folks are cashing in on their government service by penning non-substantive gossipy hit-jobs on their former employers because that’s a plainly scuzzy thing to do in itself, then I have no problem with what you are saying. But so far, you are sticking to the notion that the scuzziness stems from the disloyalty, and the disloyalty entirely justifies moral smoting at the righteous hand of Bill Bennett. I can’t be there with you on that, even leaving the gross hypocrisy of William Bennett condemning anyone for anything out of it.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          “I can’t be there with you on that, even leaving the gross hypocrisy of William Bennett condemning anyone for anything out of it.”

          I was with you until that last sentence.

          Why is Bennett’s hypocrisy so gross that he isn’t allowed to condemn others for anything, again?

          Because he doesn’t think that gambling is morally wrong even though he totally should?Report

          • Avatar Michael Drew says:

            I’ll gladly accept your endorsement of the rest and we can just leave our opinions of Bill Bennett out of it, then, how’s that?Report

  8. Avatar ChrisWWW says:

    This seems like the sort of thing Bush and the other subjects of the book should be mad about. Not the rest of us.Report

  9. Avatar Josh says:

    The most we can say definitively about Latimer is that maybe he’s a douche. He didn’t do anything clearly immoral, just something perhaps jerkily opportunistic. (And I’m saying “maybe” and “perhaps” because, having not read his book and not being acquainted with him, I can’t say for sure whether he’s a jerkily opportunistic douche, although, yes, it sounds that way.)

    Anyway, I’m willing to live with some douchiness if that’s the price of making legal information available. Maybe it will be useful; maybe it will not be. I know for sure I’d rather have it out there, though, and it’s curious to me that any intellectually honest conservative would disagree.Report

  10. Avatar stickler says:

    What a strange conversation. This fellow has published his personal recollections of his service to the Bush administration. So what?

    My view: if there’s something really wrong going on within the administration (in the sense of illegalities or blatant untruthfulness on matters of importance like the rationale for going to war), people with knowledge of them have a public duty to resign and speak out.

    And here’s the rub. The Bush II administration was absolutely obsessed with secrecy. Is there really any doubt about this? We didn’t even know, half the time, where the Vice President was! Think back on their claims to secrecy, document non-disclosure, and the flip-side of that, warrantless wiretapping. First-person salacious tell-alls are all we have to reveal what actually went on in our Executive Branch.

    And this guy seems to confirm our worst fears: the character of the Commander in Chief was deeply flawed, and unsuited to the office he held.Report

  11. Avatar Mike says:

    From the Balloon Juice dictionary at http://www.balloon-juice.com/?page_id=27077 :

    He has a book to sell

    1.) Derived from the right-wing tendency to dismiss any legitimate criticism from a former party member, where they claim cynically that the individual is simply trying to drum up book sales. See “Clarke, Richard A.”

    2.) Attack used to defame any whistle blower, insider account or opponent of one’s own worldview, if said opponent has authored a book. The fact that in general the method for spreading an idea or allegation in modern society is by first authoring a book or magazine article, and then being interviewed in the press. Useful for simply disregarding an argument, not matter how factual or valid, simply by implying a profit motive. Considered a valid attack even if the author already has substantial personal wealth.

    A form of the ad hominem logical fallacy in that it attacks the writer’s motives without addressing his or her argument.Report

    • Avatar Bob says:

      Also from The Baloon Juice Lexicon and apros speculating on motives, “ratfucking” indeed:

      “Is it irresponsible to speculate? It is irresponsible not to.” – In 2000, WSJ pundit and sometimes paid Republican operative Peggy Noonan introduced a potentially explosive, unverifiable rumor that Bill Clinton was being blackmailed by Fidel Castro into the mainstream media, using the phrase “Is it irresponsible to speculate?… It would be irresponsible not to.” The blatant dishonesty of this ratfucking attempt immediately turned it into an Internet meme signifying a personal attack, usually wildly untrue, launched under a cloak of sanctimony: “Does Candidate Trollypants bite the heads off live, underaged, rabid bats? It would be irresponsible not to speculate!” See also, Keep on walking and Nooners.Report

    • Avatar Katherine says:

      Well, I judge a book based on 1.) the quality of the information and 2.) the quality of the author. Reading Richard Clarke’s book made me respect him (even though he’s far, far more hawkish than me). He apologized for the American people for failing to prevent 9/11 despite doing virtually everything that was possible with the authority and money he had to prevent terrorist attacks. In short, this guy took his job VERY seriously. His book provides an extremely informative look at what not only the Bush Administration but administrations before it did to combat terrorism – when maybe a quarter of the text is written about administration he left, it undermines the accusation about it being written to “settle scores”.

      A person like Scott McClellan (who I’m using as an example because I more about his book than Latimer’s) – who spent his career lying for the Bush Administration, with no hint of doubt about what he was doing, and then after Bush’s approval ratings had absolutely tanked, wrote a book trying to pass himself off as a good guy – that’s just opportunism. And he didn’t even say anything of importance that hadn’t been said before.

      It’s nothing to do with “loyalty”. It’s the difference between writing a political memoir as a service to the public or as a service to yourself. It’s just annoying when people doing the latter are embraced as courageous truth-telling heroes just because they say bad things about Bush, despite being complicit in the crimes of his administration and doing nothing whatsoever about them.Report

  12. Avatar Bob says:

    Andrew Sullivan links to this bit of jive:

    “This is not to suggest that Latimer’s characterizations of chaos, off-the-cuff policymaking and cavalier message-crafting in the Bush administration is not accurate in many or even most particulars. But someone who trashes in humiliating detail the majority of colleagues he portrays in an account of 22 months of ultra high stakes work is not what I would call a a reliable narrator — however emotionally gratifying his judgments may be to outraged progressives, disillusioned conservatives, aggrieved insiders, and other constituencies who recognize the Bush presidency as a disaster.”

    Oh, that snake, I mean worm, Latimer is “…accurate in many or even most particulars…but still not a reliable narrator….”

    The unreliable truth teller!

    We WILL shoot the the piano player!

    Make It Stop!

    http://xpostfactoid.blogspot.com/2009/09/cs-lewis-on-matt-latimer.htmlReport

  13. Avatar Bob says:

    This is kinda interesting. From M. Dowd yesterday.

    “(Latimer wrote speeches for Rummy at the Pentagon and is now helping the former defense chief with his memoir.)”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/27/opinion/27dowd.html?_r=1Report

  14. Avatar AL says:

    This Latimer is a loser. He claims that Bush administration officials objected to giving JK Rowling a presidential medal of freedom on the grounds that her Harry Potter books “encouraged witchcraft”. Does Rowling actually deserve a Medal of Freedom? It is deservedly given to authors like Elie Wiesel and Harper Lee! Does this guy read?! If he has read these authors’ books, then it makes him even more of a scum bag!Report