We’ve seen it before: an embattled president so swathed in his inner circle that he completely loses touch with the public and wanders around among small knots of people who agree with him. There was Lyndon Johnson in the 1960’s, Richard Nixon in the 1970’s, and George H.W. Bush in the 1990’s. Now it’s his son’s turn.VICTORY, SCHMICTORY: Among respondents to a new CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, “55 percent said they did not believe Bush has a plan that will achieve victory for the United States in Iraq; 41 percent thought he did.” Read on.
It has been obvious for months that Americans don’t believe the war is going just fine, and they needed to hear that President Bush gets that. They wanted to see that he had learned from his mistakes and adjusted his course, and that he had a measurable and realistic plan for making Iraq safe enough to withdraw United States troops. Americans didn’t need to be convinced of Mr. Bush’s commitment to his idealized version of the war. They needed to be reassured that he recognized the reality of the war.
Instead, Mr. Bush traveled 32 miles from the White House to the Naval Academy and spoke to yet another of the well-behaved, uniformed audiences that have screened him from the rest of America lately. If you do not happen to be a midshipman, you’d have to have been watching cable news at midmorning on a weekday to catch him.
The address was accompanied by a voluminous handout entitled “National Strategy for Victory in Iraq,” which the White House grandly calls the newly declassified version of the plan that has been driving the war. If there was something secret about that plan, we can’t figure out what it was. The document, and Mr. Bush’s speech, were almost entirely a rehash of the same tired argument that everything’s going just fine. Mr. Bush also offered the usual false choice between sticking to his policy and beating a hasty and cowardly retreat. ...
Americans have been clamoring for believable goals in Iraq, but Mr. Bush stuck to his notion of staying until “total victory,” which his strategy document defines as an Iraq that “has defeated the terrorists and neutralized the insurgency,” is “peaceful, united, stable, democratic and secure” and is a partner in the war on terror, an integral part of the international community, “an engine for regional economic growth and proving the fruits of democratic governance to the region.”
That may be the most grandiose set of ambitions for that region since the vision of Nebuchadnezzar’s son Belshazzar, who saw the hand writing on the wall. Mr. Bush hates comparisons between Vietnam and Iraq. But after watching the president, we couldn’t resist reading Richard Nixon’s 1969 Vietnamization speech. Substitute the Iraqi constitutional process for the Paris peace talks, and Mr. Bush’s ideas about the Iraqi Army are not much different from Nixon’s plans--except Nixon admitted the war was going very badly (which was easier for him to do because he didn't start it) and he was very clear about the risks and huge sacrifices ahead.
A president who seems less in touch with reality than Richard Nixon needs to get out more.
READ MORE: “An Offering of Detail But No New Substance,” by Peter Baker (The Washington Post); “Bullet Points over Baghdad,” by Paul Krugman (The New York Times); “Another Big Speech on Iraq That Won’t Matter,” by David Corn; “Bush’s ‘Victory Strategy’” (NewDonkey.com); “The Good News--Bush Finally Has a Plan. The Bad News--It’s an Ill-Defined Muddle,” by Fred Kaplan (Slate); “A ‘Major’ Speech?” by Roger Simon; “No Measurable Benchmarks in Bush Iraq Strategy,” by Steve Soto (The Left Coaster); “Bush Hits Rewind,” by Bob Herbert (The New York Times); “Bush’s New Plan for Victory: Stop Saying ‘Insurgents,’” by Arianna Huffington (The Huffington Post); “Victory, Mr. President?” by Rupert Cornwell (The Independent); “Is Bush Playing Offense or Defense on Iraq?” (Pre$$titutes); “Back to the Future,” by Tim Grieve (Salon); “U.S. Occupation Is Worse Than Hussein,” by Robert Scheer (Truthdig).
EDITOR’S NOTE: You can get your own “Just Pretend It’s All Okay” magnet ($4 apiece) from Northern Sun, “products for progressives since 1979.