Klein: Bush Is Being Dishonest About Iraq. And He’s Probably Going to Win

This opinion piece by Joe Klein in Time magazine is pretty intense: Bush’s Iraq: A powerful fantasy.

It’s intense (for me, at least) because he sums up what’s been kicking around in my own head as the essential story of the US presidential campaign at this point: The US situation in Iraq is fucked, and getting moreso. Bush, in defiance of the evidence, is denying that, and Kerry, stymied by Bush’s dishonesty and the moral murk of his own past positioning on the war, is flailing. Then comes Klein’s thoroughly depressing conclusion:

And so there is only one significant question left in this presidential election year: Can John Kerry hold George Bush accountable for this mess? My guess is, probably not. The Republicans, with a strong assist from Kerry, have successfully painted the Democrat as a flip-flopping incompetent when it comes to national security. It will be hard for Kerry to change that impression. In fact, he has only one chance remaining, in the presidential debates.

And that won’t be easy: I’ve never seen George Bush lose a debate. He is a brilliant minimalist. Kerry by contrast is all oratorical flab — although he did begin to show some signs of life last week in a solid speech to the National Guard convention, in which he blasted Bush’s “fantasy of spin” about Iraq. It is a powerful fantasy, though. And it is easy to predict Bush’s response to any Kerry criticism about Iraq: “My opponent is too pessimistic,” the President will say. “See, what he doesn’t understand is that the President of the United States has to stand firm. We can’t show weakness. And we won’t on my watch.” Unless Kerry can come off with a succinct, and lethal, response to those vaporous but compelling platitudes, he will lose this election.

I really, really don’t want this to be true. I still have hope that enough of the electorate will see through Bush’s bullshit, that his cynical strategy of lying and evading responsibility for his messes will fail.

But this election will be huge. It is a cusp of historical possiblity, a pivot point on which the country’s, and maybe the world’s, future will turn.

If we lose, we lose. But it’s not over yet. We’ve got 44 days.

6 Responses to “Klein: Bush Is Being Dishonest About Iraq. And He’s Probably Going to Win”

  1. Tony D Says:

    I’ve been going back and forth on this for some time and in the long run I’m not sure I’d like to see Kerry get in for the next term. We Americans seem to have a bit of a short memory and I’d hate to see anybody but Bush take the eventual fall for this war. If Kerry were to win in November it could easily become his instead of Bush’s war just as Vietnam became Nixon’s when it was rightly Johnson’s.

    Given the opportunity the political pendulum might swing so far right that the public will become disenfranchised with the movement and what they’ve done will be easier to undo. Keep in mind that this “conservative” revival is a result of, at least in my opinion, liberal excesses. If that’s true what goes around comes around.

  2. Adam Says:


    What “liberal excesses”?

    The thing that most fascinates me about the conservative climate in this country is if you ask people about their beliefs, but shield it from politics or parties, the American people are a pretty liberal bunch. But they’ve been taught liberal=bad, conservative=good. (Not to mention the post-9/11 liberal=weak, conservative=strong. Masterful, brilliant branding effort.) I don’t know why we haven’t worked harder to take back the word “liberal.”

  3. Tony D Says:

    Allan you don’t need to look further than the work place to see where the conservative backlash came from. What started out as affirmative action for minorities has bloomed into something that has had a very negative impact on the work environment from several perspectives of which I’ll just cover that of the white male (wm). That race and gender are now considered in employment is a given. The impact on wms, the conservative population, is simply increased competition for limited positions. This in of itself would be fine however, in many cases the odds are against the wm candidate are significant and beyond their control. Its often pointed out that wm make up the majority of upper management. While this is true, these positions are generally most open only to upper class candidates who can afford to go to the best schools, don’t have to work summers to pay tuition and so can do internships that expand even further on already significant family contacts. In contrast, the vast majority of wm are now little different than minorities who are simply trying to improve their lot in life. They go to the best schools they can afford, work summers waiting tables, and work hard at interviewing and networking only to find that minorities get priority consideration for entry level positions regardless of merit. Further when and if they finally do get in the door, they face the same bias in the promotion process. In this case, by liberal excess, I mean the failure to follow through on affirmative action by monitoring its impact on society as a whole and to make the necessary policy adjustments as indicated. Please keep in mind that I’m no Bush fan but isn’t it ironic that this is the very same thing we rightly bust on Georgie for over his execution of the Iraq war? In my humble opinion this single element of perceived “liberal excess” (maybe not the best term) has done more for the rise of the AM radio listening, angry, white male, conservative class that put GWB in office than anything else.

  4. Adam Says:

    Frankly, I have a serious problem with the culture of victimhood being promoted among conservative white males. The nasty liberal media is against us! Those minorities and immigrants are trying to steal our jobs! The gays are trying to convert us! Commie-loving celebrities hate us! What a bunch of crybabies. Suck it up, losers. To hear them talk, you’d never know they ran everything. I’m sick of it.

    But the fact is, conservatives are much better at PR, and I don’t see that changing any time soon. They’ve managed to convince huge swaths of the middle- and lower-middle-class population that things that actually benefit them (unions, overtime pay, affordable health care, lower taxes for them instead of millionaires, and on and on) are actually Commie plots. Brilliant, if evil.

  5. Tony D Says:

    Frankly, I’m tired of the “culture of victimhood” being promoted across the spectrum!
    Sorry to have struck a cord there Adam but I thought it would be instructive to express an opinion as to why the conservative movement, that obviously only benefits the rich, might be gaining so much ground with working class stiffs. In one of his best songs Marvin Gay sang that, “economics is the issue.” I think my post spoke to the economics of the middle class where nothing is run but everything is paid for. It really isn’t a gender or race issue anymore but we’ve been talking about it in those terms for so long that it’s hard to rise above it.

    By and large we know how both the poor and rich are going to vote, it’s the middle class that is divided. Being invested in “liberal” policy that might contribute to this divide such that you turn a blind eye to alternative views is not rational. Again with the irony! Failure to entertain alternate views is among the Bush admin’s greatest shortcoming.

    Keep in mind that I’m not saying there never was a place for affirmative action or that the concept needs to be scrapped. I’m just saying that we’ve failed to adjust the policy as society changed which created a perception of inequity that continues to fuel the conservative movement. But we’ll keep talking in terms of race and just tell the white guys they need to suck it up if you think that’s the best path.

  6. Up North Says:

    Goobergate Two?

    During a crucial moment in the 1986 campaign for Governor in Texas, in a close race between Republican Bill Clements and the incumbent Governor Mark White, a defining event took place. The evening prior to the only debate of the campaign, private investigators were called to the offices of Clements’ campaign officials and those of Karl Rove and Company, a consultant to the Clements’ campaign. Their mission was to sweep the offices in search of an electronic bugging device. Rove became suspicious that campaign secrets were being leaked to both reporters and the White campaign. He suspected that his phone conversations were being overheard and important campaign strategy was being compromised.

    The private firm hired by Karl Rove indeed discovered a bug — conveniently behind a picture frame on the wall next to his desk. The entire incident broke the day of the debate with an accompanying whisper campaign suggesting that White campaign operatives were behind the espionage.

    Governor Mark White took the hit. With his poll numbers steadily rising in the weeks prior to the bugging, he stalled and declined steadily thereafter. For several weeks following discovery of the bugging device, the Clements campaign pointing the finger directly at White.

    Clements went on to win the race for governor.

    The real story, however, was not the race for governor or even the ultimate victor. The “story” rather, involved the suspected source of the bugging device. Many groups – Democrats, Republicans and even law enforcement – pointed to one individual, Karl Rove.

    In the weeks leading up to the fall election, law enforcement including the FBI worked overtime to uncover the source of the electronic bugging device. There were a few facts that pointed to an inside job. First, the bug was battery operated with a maximum 10-hr life. For sustained operation over several weeks, the perpetrator needed daily access to Karl Rove’s office to replace the battery. Secondly, the FBI found that the battery at the time of the bug detection was a six-volt battery with 5.8 volts of remaining power. The battery had, therefore, been installed and turned on the day of discovery. Yet there was no indication of any break-ins to Rove’s office.

    In a politically charged environment and without clear proof, the District Attorney, a Republican, disbanded all pursuit of the perpetrators. Case closed. Yet the colossal mistakes made by the private investigation firm caused partisans on both side of the issue to refer to the great bugging caper as “Goobergate.”

    Word on the street in Texas was that Karl Rove had pulled off a masterful trick. Perfectly timed, the day of the only debate, the bugging of a challenger’s campaign office and allegations of a “dirty trick” all proved too much for the White campaign.

    A year later over dinner with Matt Lyon, White’s speechwriter, his guest Patricia Tierney Alofsin and consultant John Weaver, the truth leaked out. According to Alofsin, Rove as much as admitted to bugging his own office, boasting to his dinner colleagues how he had outsmarted his political opponents.

    Fast forward to 2004. Purported memos surface alleging that George W. Bush had skipped duties while in the National Guard and reported by CBS’ Sixty Minutes. Appearing six weeks before the November campaign, memos written by Lieutenant Colonel Jerry Killian in the 1970s offered further information regarding Bush’s military service and could prove most damaging to the incumbent President. How could a sitting Commander-in-Chief maintain credibility if he had used family connections to gain a coveted assignment with the National Guard rather than face service in Vietnam? Even more damaging was “evidence” that Bush had also reneged on his Guard duties, essentially going AWOL.

    However, if the source of this story was discredited, the “explosive story” could in fact have the opposite effect.

    Less than an hour following CBS’ 60 Minutes story, right-wing oriented Internet Blogs became the source of a campaign to discredit the authenticity of the Killian memos. They appeared ready in waiting. And following two weeks of denial and an unrelenting campaign against them, CBS retracted its story, indicating that they can no longer vouch for the authenticity of these accusatory memos.

    Never mind that Killian’s secretary at the time, Marian Carr Knox, indicated that the essence of the charges contained in the memos were accurate, and Killian had expressed similar concerns about Bush to her. The American press moved from the core issue, to instead, the authenticity of the memos and CBS’ involvement.

    The National Guard story has served to be a tremendous boost for the Bush Campaign and at just the opportune moment. Rather than focusing on Iraq, health care, or the economy, the past two weeks have focused on Dan Rather, CBS News and further evidence of liberal bias in the media. What could be more advantageous in the height of a presidential campaign than to have a battle over the credibility of one of the major news networks, and questions about their motives? And the whisper campaign has started with insinuations that Bush’s opponents were in cahoots with retired Lieutenant Colonel Bill Burkett, the source of CBS’ Killian memos.

    Is there solid evidence of involvement by Karl Rove? Not yet, and most likely there never will be. Over the years Rove has skillfully prevented his fingerprints from appearing on any of his numerous dirty tricks. Yet, “CBS Memo Gate” has all the appearance and smell of another Rove dirty trick. And, if true, it will prove to be a masterful one at that. Ah, democracy American-style.

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