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Who would have thunk it? The CIA does secret stuff

July 13, 2009

To put all my cards on the table, I feared that with the passing of the Bush administration, the nation would suffer from a severe shortage of funny. I even went so far as to pack 400 pounds of funny in salt and store it in oak barrels in the basement.

To beat the sheer hilarity of George Bush in a flight suit under a "Mission Accomplished" banner, one had to go all the way back to an undersized Michael Dukakis in an oversized tank in 1988. I only regret that our children were not around to see that one.

But thankfully, my fears have proven unjustified, and the nation is plugging along, as mind-numbingly goofy as ever, to wit:

Item: Congressional Democrats are appalled the CIA has misled them on occasion, including the failure to tell them of a "classified program" that began in 2001. No one knows what exactly this program is, because, well, it's classified.

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So it turns out that the CIA has secrets? Who would have guessed that? Next they'll be telling us they have, on occasion, tried to depose unfriendly dictators. I guess a spy organization has to get up pretty early in the morning to fool congressional Democrats.

Of course part of this falls on the CIA, as well. If I were head of the CIA, I'd go ahead and tell senators and representatives everything that was going on at Langley, on the reasonable theory that they're too thick to understand what it all means.

If, in the beginning, Oliver North had marched up to Capitol Hill and said, "What we're going to do, see, is sell weapons via intermediaries to Iran and launder the money, which will be funneled to the Contras in Nicaragua," he would have been met with glassy stares and the occasional paper airplane.

Item: According to the New York Daily News, Nevada Sen. John Ensign "enlisted his elderly parents to pay out $96,000 in 'gifts' to his ex-mistress and her family. His father, Mike, is a wealthy casino mogul."

But it wasn't a payoff, Ensign wants to make clear. In a statement, he said his parents decided to make the gifts out of "concern for the well-being of longtime family friends during a difficult time," and that "The gifts are consistent with a pattern of generosity by the Ensign family."

Not bad. I might have gone with the tried and true, "It was payment for services rendered" defense, myself. But I have always been a fan of taking the offensive, and this "I am not a skunk, I am a member of a terrifically generous family" line has an element of creativity that wouldn't have occurred to me, to you or anyone else with a sense of decency.

Item: The Washington Post reports that the F-22, America's top fighter jet, requires 30 hours of maintenance for every hour of flight. Congress wants to keep building the plane, even though the design is 30 years old and the fighter has a "vulnerability to rain."

That's an issue. It's so technically advanced that it is impervious to an enemy's surface-to-air missiles, but they can take you out with a water pistol. Look for the Ruskies to call up a bunch of 5-year-olds armed with Super Soakers.

Of course the jets will never make it that far because the check-engine light comes on every 500 miles. Each hour of flight costs taxpayers $44,000, the Post reports.

But Congress wants to keep on building it despite its flaws, under what we now know as the GM paradigm.

Well, why not? As long as it's around, I won't be needing those barrels of pickled funny.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324, or via e-mail at timr@herald-mail.com. Tune in to the Rowland Rant video under opinion@herald-mail.com, on antpod.com or on Antietam Cable's WCL-TV Channel 30 at 6:30 p.m. New episodes are released every Wednesday.

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