Inconvenient News,
       by smintheus

Monday, June 19, 2006

  President's spokesman insults the 'greatest generation'

On Late Edition Sunday, Wolf Blitzer gave Tony Snow a good pranging. Quite a few excellent lies escaped Snow's jaws, as well as a pleasing assortment of absurdities. But right off the bat, for whatever reason, he decided to belittle everybody who was alive during World War II.

The president understands people's impatience -- not impatience but how a war can wear on a nation. He understands that. If somebody had taken a poll in the Battle of the Bulge, I dare say people would have said, wow, my goodness, what are we doing here? But you cannot conduct a war based on polls.

The idea that my parents or grandparents would have wanted to bring our troops home during the Battle of the Bulge strikes me as so far from the mark that I have to wonder what kind of tea was being served in the green room at CNN today. This is a political blunder of magnitude. It shows the kind of strain the White House and Snow in particular are under to find a better way to sell this war to a public that refuses any longer to buy it.

Part of the idea here is that tired tactic of drawing parallels between the reckless invasion of Iraq and past wars forced upon us, especially WWII. But when you insult the intelligence of those who lived through that war, you've lost the tactical advantage.

The larger problem is that WWII was bloody, but otherwise very unlike the failed occupation and civil war Bush is directly responsible for. Snow can try to shake off the past failures in Iraq in order to spin yet more of the tattered fantasies about progress and light at the end of the tunnel, but ultimately the administration cannot blot out the historical record. For years Bush Co. has been touting its successes in rebuilding Iraq, so how do you convince anybody now that we're about to see the signs of progress?

Polls, I think, are an accurate reflection of people's anxieties. But one of the things, I think, Wolf, as the American people begin to see that we're actually dealing with a reliable partner in Iraq and you've got an Iraqi government that not only is standing up but committing its forces in lead roles in troublesome places like Baghdad, like Ramadi, going into Basra -- and those are trouble spots within Iraq...

In other words, all those partners Bush was touting in the past few years--they were just troublemakers, riff raff...forget about them. Now we've got a guy we can actually rely upon.

Blitzer was reasonably aggressive with Snow today. He gave Snow a pass when he claimed (absent any evidence, as far as I know), that Nuri al Maliki has stated that prisoners who've killed Americans will not be released under any amnesty. But Wolf did press him on the cable sent to Bush by Ambassador Khalilzad, which he described as "gloomy". Snow tried to evade the problem, but ended up giving the impression that things in Iraq are "bleak".

Well, that's taken in mid-May. Here we are, we are a month later, and I just told you, you've got 50,000 Iraqi troops that are now focusing on those problem areas in Baghdad.

The president didn't go there with rose-colored glasses, Wolf. We've been at Camp David the day before and received briefings from Generals Casey and Abizaid and from Ambassador Khalilzad. He had talked with scholars, some of whom have somewhat bleak views of what's going on.

And again, whatever the bleakness is, whatever the facts may be on the ground, the most important thing is you figure out how to win....

What's interesting is ... it was said, "Hours before President Bush left on a surprise trip for an upbeat assessment of the situation" -- he didn't go there for an upbeat assessment of the situation. He went there for a realistic assessment....

So this was not the president trying to do a victory lap. No, it was the president now realizing you got somebody you can work with to deal with problems like this.

In other words, bleak is realistic; and President Bush has (finally?) learned the truth about how bleak the situation in Iraq is. On the face of it, that does not seem like the kind of corner I would want a press secretary to paint me into. Perhaps there is some subtlety to Snow's approach that I don't understand. But he does seem to emphasizing, intentionally or not, that the first three years of the occupation of Iraq, until al Maliki assumed power, have been wasted.

Blitzer also kept flinging polls at Snow, who despite his professions of disdain for polls, gave in and responded to these questions. Blitzer's next to last question had a bite:

A little politics before I let you go. How is the president handling his job as president, in our CNN poll, it's at 37 percent right now. An interesting question we asked: If Bush supported a candidate in your area, would you be more likely to vote for that candidate? Twenty-seven percent said yes. Less likely to vote for him? Forty-seven percent said yes. No difference, 20 percent. How active is the president going to be going out for Republican candidates over the next several months leading up to November?

And the final question put to Snow?

Here are some of the recent comments that you made before you became the White House press secretary. In September of last year, you said, "No president has looked this impotent this long when it comes to defending presidential powers and prerogatives." In November, you wrote, "The newly passive George Bush has become something of an embarrassment." Tony Snow in March: "A Republican president and a Republican Congress have lost control of the federal budget."

A bad outing for Mr. Snow.

Crossposted at Daily Kos


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