The business of governing is very different from the business of politicking. In fact, the relationship between the two is similar to the relationship between production and advertising. Most large companies have separate departments for these functions, recognizing that employees who are proficient in advertising and marketing probably don’t know how to run the machinery or produce the goods that they are promoting. It takes different skill sets.
So isn’t it odd that politicians, once elected, often hire their campaign managers, consultants, gofers and mouthpieces (the advertising team) to help them make policy (their product)? But that’s the way it is in government today, especially at the presidential level. And that’s why, rather than governing, it feels like the Bush administration is in continuous campaign mode.
The latest chapter of the never-ending political campaign was launched on Veterans Day, when President Bush callously turned a Pennsylvania celebration honoring the men and women who have selflessly served in our nation’s armed forces into a self-serving PR/photo op offensive. It was a moment drenched in irony.
“It is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how that war began,” the president proclaimed, oblivious to the absurdity of his making such a statement. "The stakes in the global war on terror are too high, and the national interest is too important, for politicians to throw out false charges.”
The problem, though, is that it’s his administration that is attempting to rewrite the history of how we got into the mess that is the Iraq war, and his administration whose actions are undermining the national interest. Most Americans now recognize that the shifting rationales we’ve been fed do not, even in toto, justify our costly misadventure. Our main concern now is how we extricate ourselves without further damaging our national credibility or putting the Iraqi citizenry at greater risk. No one has a satisfactory answer.
The fact is that the politicos surrounding Bush, from the Vice President on down, were bound and determined to take out Saddam Hussein, even before they had taken the reins of power; the terrorist attacks of 9/11/01 provided an excuse. Saddam Hussein had been effectively neutered by UN sanctions and, beyond his bad boy bluffery, was no more a threat than the neighborhood bully who runs home to mom or big brother as soon as someone stands up to him.
Iraq was not the training ground for terrorists---Afghanistan was. Because Iraq under Saddam was a secular state and Osama Bin Laden and his minions are religiously fueled fanatics, it is highly unlikely that there would ever have been an alliance forged between the two.
Instead of pursuing the terrorists themselves, Bush chose the path promoted by his neocon chicken hawk cabal. In pumping up their case for war, they shared only the information that bolstered their preconceived position, ignored warnings to the contrary, encouraged an erroneous connection between Hussein and the 9/11 terrorists in the public mind, and kidded themselves into believing Iraqi Arabs would welcome an American occupation.
In another one of those self-fulfilling prophecies, the actions of this administration have turned Iraq into a breeding ground for terrorists. It’s not unlike the current trumpeting that this year’s budget deficit may be $96 billion less than last year’s, ignoring the fact that when these guys took office there was a budget surplus and that the massive deficits that we’re trying to pare down were created by their policies. Same thing in Iraq---yes, it’s now the epicenter of global terror, but it wasn’t before we arrived. We made it so.
Rather than find an honorable way to disentangle from our dishonorable folly, the president who never admits a mistake and his gang are looking for ways to cover their butts and justify their horrible miscalculations. Their only concern is political cover. Karl Rove and Dick Cheney, two consummate politicians, are the poster boys for this administration. “What is politically expedient?” they ask; not, “What is the best course for our country and the world?”
Did this administration manipulate intelligence information to arrive at a preordained conclusion? Did non-Republicans erroneously accept the evidence as presented by the administration and its media puppets?
The answer to both questions is yes. But convincing others to believe your lies doesn’t mean you are telling the truth.
The backdrop for the president’s Veteran’s Day tirade was one of those “Strategy for Victory” banners like the one deployed here at Chrysler Hall two weeks earlier. But there is no strategy for victory. It’s just an empty advertising slogan.
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