Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Dana Perino Explains It All for You

I know that obsessive fans of faith-based reality television still miss the comic high jinks of the Scotty Mac Show—better known to some as the White House press briefing, then hosted by Press Secretary Scott McClellan—but audiences have recently had reason to cheer as springtime replacement Dana Perino has lent a carefree toss of her hair and her own subtle brand of humor to that afternoon giggle we call the gaggle.

Here’s Ms. Perino giving “heck” to Harry—Harry Reid, that is, the Democratic Senate leader from Nevada—after Reid dared to give the White House a little geography lesson.

One thing that concerned me today is I heard that Senator Reid said that the President is in denial about the war. And I think that any quick glance in the mirror would show him that he's in denial on several things -- that Senator Reid is.

First of all, he's in denial about the enemy that we face. This is a vicious and brutal enemy that wants to kill innocent men, women and children of Iraq, people who enjoy and love freedom, and that includes Americans. So it's not in our long-term national security interests in order to not deal with this enemy now.

Secondly, he's in denial about the conflict that we are in, how al Qaeda is inciting sectarian violence. He is in denial about the new Baghdad security plan and the new changes that we've implemented in al Anbar province. He's also in denial that a surrender date he thinks is a good idea. It is not a good idea. It is defeat. It is a death sentence for the millions of Iraqis who voted for a constitution, who voted for a government, who voted for a free and democratic society.

We all want the Iraqis to move faster, to do more and to do it faster, in terms of their political reconciliations. But they're just not ready to do it yet. And Americans are not the type that walk away in times of hardship. To leave people in Iraq flailing and defenseless against an enemy who is determined to kill them. And withdrawal is like crying "uncle," it's giving up. And I can assure you they are diluting themselves if they think that offering a surrender date is in the long-term strategic interests of this country. It is not.

Comedy gold, right?

“Diluting themselves?” What with, I wonder. Show me, Dana, don’t tell me! Tell ya’ what, I will give Ms. Perino the benefit of the doubt and chalk that one up to the bonehead responsible for transcribing these briefings (or should I call it “the writers’ room?”). And that whole soliloquy about the “Baghdad security plan” working—that would be hysterical if it weren’t for all the dead bodies piling up. So, instead, let me point out a couple of other laugh lines.

“This is a vicious and brutal enemy that wants to kill innocent men, women and children of Iraq, people who enjoy and love freedom, and that includes Americans.” What’s more absurd: the usual administration claptrap about how the “evil doers” in Iraq are going to come on over and kill us here, or that Perino and her boss have decided to bring the war home by extending Iraqi citizenship to all Americans? It’s a little avant-garde, but imagine the comic possibilities.

And here’s the wicky wacky one I really want to call to your attention: “ . . . he's in denial about the conflict that we are in, how al Qaeda is inciting sectarian violence.”

Now al Qaeda is inciting sectarian violence? What a scream! Al Qaeda? Really? I mean, Dana, don’t get me wrong, I’m laughing and all, but I ask because I feel almost certain that you said Iran was fueling sectarian violence. I even remember some sketch about “explosively formed penetrators”—that was prop comedy at its best!

Forgive me Dana, I know you have your own style, and I don’t want to mess with that, but if you are going to tell a joke, you gotta tell it right. You see, and I know you’re kind of new to the circuit, so maybe you didn’t pick up on this, Iran is a predominantly Shiite country, and they are partial to the Shiite population of Iraq, while al Qaeda is exclusively a Sunni organization. Iran—Shiite. . . al Qaeda—Sunni. . . got it?

Now, it has been said that al Qaeda was starring in (or maybe they’re just in the supporting cast—we can debate that some other time) a little off-Broadway production called “the insurgency” because of said insurgency’s ties to former Baathists or “Saddam loyalists” who are overwhelmingly, yes, that’s right, Sunni. Insurgents are supposedly trying to drive American occupiers out of Iraq, or at lease pick off a few of those occupiers, maybe destabilize the new, American-backed government. . . that sort of thing. (Not good for the tourist dollar, but I hear it kills in the sticks.)

“Sectarian violence,” on the other hand, is thought to be a bit more, shall we say, sectarian. As Sid Caesar—I think it was him, anyway—always used to remind me: It’s not an insurgency; it’s a civil war. It’s Shiites going after Sunnis and vice-versa. American troops are just, uh, well, “innocent” seems like a silly word, so let’s just say “bystanders.” Americans might still get killed, but it’s likely more because they got in the way.

I know it seems like a subtle point—maybe even a little nitpicky—and keeping it all straight is, uh, “hard work,” but, Dana, it’s like they say, “the devil is in the details.”

In this case, it’s the devil you know, and, clearly, the devil you don’t.

All kidding aside, it’s recitations like Ms. Perino’s Monday briefing that make me certain that over four years into this occupation, the White House neither knows nor cares about the reality of the situation in Iraq. Learning the differences between Sunnis and Shiites, their beliefs, their grievances, or their chief supporters is of little interest to the Bush Administration because, when seen through their partisan prism, it doesn’t serve any purpose.

Distinctions in the type of conflict or the parties involved just muddy the message (be afraid; vote Republican) and do little line the pockets of the war profiteers (aka Bush’s “base”).

But I know what you’re thinking, Dana, “I think I’ll remember the laughter.”

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