Friday, January 06, 2006

Smile for the camera

David Sanger of the New York Times reports that yesterday’s White House reunion of former Secretaries of Defense and State was attended by the current place holders (Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice) for only five or ten minutes.

After everyone got their coffee, the group was subjected to 40 minutes of standard issue White House dog-and-pony presented by Gen. George Casey and (by video link) Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad. The message: everything’s coming up roses.

Then, GWB stopped by to exchange chitchat with McNamara, Laird, and Schlesinger (probably just to see if they were still alive). Colin Powell (surprise, surprise) said nothing. It was up to the only woman in the room to whip out a pair of big brassy ones: Madeleine Albright (you remember her from the go-go ‘90’s), reportedly “a bit stirred up” from having sunshine blown up her ass for most of an hour, actually told the President that Iraq was “taking up all of the energy” of his cronies and yes-men, and that the rest of his foreign policy also blew chunks. (I wasn’t in the room, but that sounds like Maddy, doesn’t it?)

Bush was thrilled that someone presented a differing opinion. . .


Bush shot back, and not in a nice way. He claimed he could “walk and chew gum at the same time.” (That is a quote. . . from Sanger on Washington Week.)

Believe it or not, all that excitement actually sparked a smattering of discussion, which must have sounded like nails on a chalkboard to the President because he quickly suggested they all go to the Oval for a “family picture.” (Yup, he said that.) W was all sweetness and light in front of the cameras, but after the revealing photo was snapped, the very expensive focus group returned to the Roosevelt Room to find that the President had disappeared. So had Dick, Rummy, and Condi. Thank you very much, and little Stevie Hadley has some lovely parting gifts for you.

Why do I waste so much time on this ridiculous non-event? Well, because it is clear that the administration’s PR strategy (again, not a military strategy, not a diplomatic strategy—it has nothing to do with foreign policy and everything to do with domestic opinion) is to pretend that Bush listens to advice from all sides and that there is a consensus that, no matter what we all thought before, we now know we have to “stay the course.”

It is important to show that there is no consensus. It is important to show that the much-touted “strategy for victory” is nothing more than a strategy to raise the President’s approval ratings. This administration has no true strategy for Iraq, or for any other point on the globe, for that matter. And, while they continue to spin, people continue to die, and the ability of America to affect positive change in the world continues to wane.

And Bush continues to smile.


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