Monday, November 21, 2005
It Didn't Work
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Yesterday at a news conference in Beijing, a reporter said to George W. Bush, "Respectfully, sir -- you know we're always respectful -- in your statement this morning with President Hu, you seemed a little off your game, you seemed to hurry through your statement. There was a lack of enthusiasm. Was something bothering you?"
Bush, with the charm that ranks him among the world's least charming men, replied, "Have you ever heard of jet lag? Well, good. That answers your question." Huh huh. Have you ever heard of jet lag? Huh huh huh. The reporter asked if he could have a follow-up, and Bush snapped, "No you may not." (It was probably something along the lines of, "Please, Mighty God of the West, teach us about this strange thing you call 'jet lag!'")
With that, an especially pissy George W. Bush marched away from the podium, to the door. But it wouldn't open. Bush struggled with the door for a moment before an aide pointed toward the correct exit. Bush seemed to be laughing at himself a little. "I was trying to escape," he told the room. "It didn't work."
This was a thirty-second non-event. It's not as though Bush pounded the door with his fists, hysterically screaming, "MOMMY! IT'S CHINAMEN!" That would have been big news. It's just a funny little incident, because Bush is under so much stress lately, what with his disastrous presidency crumbling all around him, and he got a little snippy with a reporter on foreign soil, and tried to leave in a huff but couldn't.
But it's the visual. Think of it in context:
The Cry of Murtha has been heard around the world, and Congress is asserting itself as never before in Bush's reign. However, frustrated with the wait, American commanders in Iraq have submitted to Rumsfeld their own plan to withdraw 60,000 troops over the next year, starting next month. The Army and Marine Corps have recalled 18,000 body armor vests which failed ballistic testing in 2001 but were distributed to Iraq-bound soldiers nevertheless. Human rights investigators from the United Nations have condemned the United States for denying UN fact-finding access to the Guantanamo Bay detention center. Coalition troops have killed Iraqi prisoners with drills. The German intelligence service BND, to which Colin Powell attributed the claim that Iraq had at least seven mobile factories for biological weapons, now says that the Bush administration exaggerated unverifiable information which was "not substantial." Donald Rumsfeld took it upon himself to go on television and tell George Stephanopoulos that he "didn't advocate" the invasion of Iraq and "wasn't asked," although he "agreed completely with the decision to go to war and said that a hundred times." Meanwhile, here at home, the city of New Orleans is still in ruins, with mountains of decaying garbage, neighborhoods without power or heat, and a continuing flow of undiscovered corpses. Given the tragic state of our national affairs, it's particularly disturbing to learn that according to the U.S. Treasury Department's records, the Bush administration has borrowed more money from foreign nations than all forty-two previous administrations combined. What's remarkable about Bush's 34% job approval rating is that it's so high.
And there he is, folks, George W. Bush, trying to get out, but he can't open the door. He's stuck. He has no exit strategy.
There has been a shift in his presentation. Just ten days ago, on Veterans Day, he was using the occasion to lie about Iraq some more, and to characterize dissenters as opportunist turncoats who hate America. He said it was "deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history" of the war, and then he rewrote the history of the war. He said with a straight face, once again, that Congress saw "the same intelligence" he did prior to the invasion -- and it's just not true, any more than it was true when he used it against Kerry last year. But in the twisted Bush view, Democrats in Congress were the ones making "false charges" and "baseless attacks" which "send the wrong signal to our troops and to an enemy that is questioning America's will."
A few days later, after the Cry of Murtha, Scott McClellan recited a White House statement declaring it "baffling" that "a respected veteran and politician who has a record of supporting America" was "endorsing the policy positions of Michael Moore and the extreme liberal wing of the Democratic party." What Murtha wanted, McClellan said, was "to surrender to the terrorists."
But yesterday in China, Bush was careful to emphasize that critics of the war "have every right to voice their dissent," and that Murtha is "a fine man, a good man who served our country with honor and distinction," and whose call for troop withdrawal "was done in a careful and thoughtful way." Why, yes, George, it sure was. "People should feel comfortable about expressing their opinions about Iraq," he continued, easing into his new role as First Amendment champion, friend of the protester. Then he confided: "I heard somebody say, 'Well so-and-so is not patriotic because they disagree with my position.' I totally reject that thought."
Wait a minute! Is this a true story? George W. Bush heard somebody say "Well, so-and-so is not patriotic because they disagree with my position," and he totally rejects that thought? I think he's making that up. Actually, I think someone else made it up. At any rate, he remains steadfast in his insistence that no withdrawal plan commence, because that "will have terrible consequences." He went so far as to say that this was "not going to happen so long as I'm the president."
So there's the call, my friends; you can't get much clearer than that. It really isn't going to happen so long as he's the president. We shall have to remove him.
Murtha's plan calls for a complete pullout, carried out in phases over six months. Rumsfeld meekly insisted that current troop levels absolutely must be maintained at least until the next Iraqi election -- which is next month.
The George W. Bush fashioned by advisers and speechwriters often uses the word "resolute." He prides himself on being resolute; his great heroes have all been resolute presidents; one of the best things about Americans is that they're just so resolute! In Bush's case, it's a euphemism for unyielding. There seems to be a red alert for final straws, but he refuses to admit the ship is sinking, let alone plug up the holes. The limpness of his political concession -- basically, all he did was acknowledge freedom of speech -- suggests a gathering darkness he can't acknowledge.
As we have recently learned, his inner circle now consists of four people -- his wife, his mother, Karen Hughes, and Condoleezza Rice. And Rice's future in the administration -- like the future of the administration itself -- is uncertain. It's always seemed possible that the Valerie Plame investigation would beat a path to her door, and in the new subplot involving Bob Woodward, it seems that it has. All we knew when last week ended was that Woodward's surprise source from two years ago was not Rice or Rumsfeld. But now London's Sunday Times is reporting that "lawyers close to the investigation" say it's Stephen Hadley. He was Rice's deputy at the time of the leak, and when she became Secretary of State, he succeeded her as national security adviser.
Think Progress reminds us that at a White House press briefing on Friday, when Hadley was asked point blank if he was Woodward's source, he answered: "I have seen press reports that -- and only press reports -- that Bob Woodward has talked about, I guess, three sources from the administration that he had. I've also seen press reports from White House officials saying that I am not one of his sources." David Sirota writes, "If...Hadley was Woodward's direct source, that raises a very important question: Was Hadley ordered to leak Plame's name to the press by his boss at the time, Condi Rice? In other words, Rice may not have been Woodward's direct source as she claims -- but that doesn't mean she didn't give the order." Sirota also points out that "Wilson's New York Times op-ed was a direct indictment of Rice, meaning she had a personal motive. And it would be extremely hard to imagine Hadley acting alone with such a coordinated hit job on a CIA officer."
And as the White House itself has been, um, resolute in mentioning, the Fitzgerald investigation is ongoing. He's taking it before a new grand jury, the previous one having expired. More indictments are imminent; more resignations are inevitable.
Tragically, the war in Iraq is also ongoing, as is the suffering in New Orleans, the fear in New York, and the colossal nosedive our country has taken since these malevolent buffoons seized its reins. As for George W. Bush, he's always seemed happiest during the showbizzy, photo-op moments of his occupation, when he's been carefully surrounded with pliant and adoring acolytes. The Rove image machine has cranked out some splendid visuals, some notoriously ironic ("Mission Accomplished"). But in Bush's unscripted battle with a door in Beijing yesterday, we have a picture which tells the truth.