Spinner in Chief

By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Monday, August 29, 2005; 12:21 PM

President Bush is trying to turn the completion of a divisive and disappointing draft constitution for Iraq into a cause for celebration.

But the facts keep getting in the way.

In brief remarks yesterday, Bush said the drafting process was "an inspiration to all who share the universal values of freedom, democracy, and the rule of law."

In his Saturday radio address , Bush said: "Iraq's main ethnic and religious groups made the courageous choice to join the political process. And together, they have worked toward a democratic constitution that respects the traditions of their country and guarantees the rights of all their citizens."

But among the many challenges facing the draft constitution, Sunni Arabs are coming out against it -- and U.S. officials have long maintained that Sunni participation in the political process was crucial to establishing stability that would allow for the withdrawal of U.S. troops.

Steven R. Weisman writes in the New York Times that in the context of "the disarray in Baghdad that was becoming evident, with Sunnis and some Shiites vowing to defeat the constitution and others angrily predicting a surge in anti-government violence, statements by the president and others in his administration had the air of making a case that the situation was not as bad as it looked."

Weisman gets an unusual peek behind the curtain:

"Several administration officials acknowledged deep regret and frustration that all their efforts had failed to produce a document that could not only establish human rights but also bring a huge disaffected element into the political process, as the Americans had hoped and predicted. . . .

"Lowering their sights, administration officials said Sunday that their task now was to keep the political process alive, even if the constitution was rejected in October, and thereby keep the disaffected Sunnis from helping to stoke more violence."

Weisman spots something missing: "[I]t was notable that on a day when many Iraqis expressed concern that the document could limit women's rights by empowering Shiite clerics, the administration made little or no reference to that issue."

And he questions the use of one of Bush's most cherished metaphors, likening the fractious debates in Iraq to those among America's founders.

"I want our folks to remember our own constitution was not unanimously received," Bush said.

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