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Bush Bubble Alive and Well

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By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Wednesday, August 16, 2006; 12:42 PM

The White House made a big to-do about President Bush's meeting Monday with four outside experts on Iraq. Spokesman Tony Snow held the meeting up as proof that the president is interested in -- and consistently exposed to -- different points of view, and even dissent.

But the only thing that meeting demonstrated is that true dissent is still not welcome at the White House, unless you define dissenters as anyone who doesn't agree with the president on absolutely everything.

By all independent accounts, none of the academics who were granted an audience with the president Monday criticized his fundamental approach to Iraq. At most, they suggested minor course corrections.

And none of them told him what he evidently refuses to hear: That it's not working.

I've written a fair amount about the Bush Bubble over the past nearly three years. And it seems to me that, with a tiny handful of exceptions, the bubble is still fully operational.

When it comes to Iraq in particular, Bush has no interest in engaging in genuine dialogue with people who disagree with him -- even though polls suggest those people now represent a large majority of the American public.

He has no interest in actually arguing the merits of his approach, or substantively defending against the increasingly focused critique by congressional Democrats.

Rather, he describes his approach in platitudes, and uses inflated rhetoric to mock the made-up arguments of imaginary opponents. He counts on the skillful use of imagery and human backdrops to deliver his very simple core message -- "I am protecting you" -- without actually making his case.

He hides behind the presidency.

What Snow Said

Here's Snow on Monday , in anticipation of the meeting with the outside expert: "I think it's safe to say what the President does in sessions like this is invite people to express very openly their candid views on things. . . .

"Q Even dissenters?

"MR. SNOW: Yes, absolutely. And, Helen, that's an important point. We do not [deal] in 'Amen' choruses. What you do is you invite smart people in who have different points of view."


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