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Who's Driving This Thing?

Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2006 10:40 AM

On Sunday, President Bush told ABC's George Stephanopoulos, "Well, hey, listen, we�ve never been �stay the course,� George. We have been � we will complete the mission, we will do our job, and help achieve the goal, but we�re constantly adjusting to tactics. Constantly."

On Monday, White House Counselor Dan Bartlett affirmed, ""It's never been a stay the course strategy."

White House spokesman Tony Snow went several rounds with reporters trying to redefine what, exactly, stay the course means.

There are over 150 instances of stay the course on the White House website, dating back as far as 2002. Some are references to other programs, such as No Child Left Behind; a couple are from Laura Bush recounting the sentiments of an adoring public.

Now, one could argue that Bush wasn't saying that he had never said stay the course, only that his strategy or tactics never consisted of such one-dimensional thinking. But it is simply not supported by the facts � the very words of the President himself.

And if we've been adjusting our tactics, shouldn't things be improving?

Our foreign policy, and our continued involvement in Iraq should consist of more than the media asking, "Are we there yet?" and the President exhorting us to, "Stay the course, stay the course."

The problem, of course, is that the Bush Administration hasn't ever built a democracy, not in the sense that our Founding Fathers did. We only know that they declared independence, sat down and wrote a constitution, and did this voting thing. We � all of us � have enjoyed the fruits of that labor for nearly 220 years, but if you threw any of us into the chaos and disarray of Iraq, would we know what to do, how to organize, how to build a stable and effective government?

Or would we, like the Administration, indulge in finger-pointing, insisting it's Iraq's fault, that the Iraqis have to step up to the plate? ("Hey, look, I know we came in, deposed the standing government, banned the ruling political party, trashed your country's infrastructure, have tried installing corrupt leaders, made a bunch of promises that we reneged on, but, fuck, why haven't you cleaned the place up yet?")

So, I have to ask (not that I haven't before):

Mr. President, do you know what the fuck you're doing? At all? Any clues?


In an interview with a CNBC reporter, Bush explains, �I tend not to email or � not only tend not to email, I don�t email, because of the different record requests that can happen to a president. I don�t want to receive emails because, you know, there�s no telling what somebody�s email may � it would show up as, you know, a part of some kind of a story, and I wouldn�t be able to say, `Well, I didn�t read the email.� `But I sent it to your address, how can you say you didn�t?� So, in other words, I�m very cautious about emailing.�
What is clear is that Mr. Bush is more concerned about being caught in a lie, or having his words contradicted by something he wrote several months prior. Papers, you see, papers can be collected and boxed and classified and shipped off to some warehouse where no one will ever see them. But an e-mail resides on the hard drives of the sender and the recipients.

In short, Bush wants plausible deniability. He's afraid of being caught saying or admitting anything where a record could be kept outside of his control.

And since it's not like Johnny or Jill Reporter is going to have the direct e-mail of the President of the United States ��Bush is fearful of people within his own Administration, the clerks and secretaries who might have access and leak to the press.

Lawmakers are complaining about CNN's airing of footage showing of insurgent snipers shooting at U.S. troops.

Three Californian members of the House have asked the military to bar CNN reporters from being embedded with troops in the future.

"Does CNN want America to win this thing?" Rep. Duncan Hunter asked, while Reps. Brian Bilbray and Darrell Issa accused the network of being a publicist for enemy propaganda.

None of which explains the GOP's own use of selected quotes by Osama bin Laden and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, matched to footage including that of a nuclear mushroom cloud, in a recent television ad.

The fact remains that insurgent forces remain a major threat. They've been shooting at our troops for some time, not just because they got a few minutes of airtime on CNN.

What should CNN be airing instead? Gushing praise of victories we aren't achieving and hard work we haven't done? Patriotic cantos glorifying the might of the American military to distract us from a steady flow of flag-draped coffins?

It is a failure of leadership that has brought us to this point, gentlemen. Ignoring the violence in Iraq � and our role in creating it � can only keep us at arm's length from effective solutions.

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