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Bush vs. Reality

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By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Thursday, September 21, 2006; 12:34 PM

On the dominant issue of our time, the president is in denial.

By most reliable accounts, three and a half years into the U.S. occupation, Iraq is in chaos -- if not in a state of civil war, then awfully close. But President Bush insists it's not so.

He says the people he talks to assure him that the press coverage about how bad things are in Iraq is not to be trusted.

You might think that the enormous gulf between Bush's perceptions and reality on such a life-and-death topic would be, well, newsworthy. But if members of the Washington press corps consider it news at all, apparently it's old news. They report Bush's assertions about Iraq without noting that his fundamental assessment of the situation is dramatically contradicted by the reporting from their own colleagues on the ground.

And in the rare circumstances when they directly confront the president with observations that conflict with his own, they let it drop too quickly.

Case in point, Wolf Blitzer's lackluster interview with the president on CNN yesterday. (Here's the transcript ; here's some video .)

"BLITZER: I'll read to you what Kofi Annan said on Monday. He said, 'If current patterns of alienation and violence persist much further, there is a grave danger the Iraqi state will break down, possibly in the midst of a full-scale civil war.' Is this what the American people bought into?

"BUSH: You know, it's interesting you quoted Kofi. I'd rather quote the people on the ground who are very close to the situation, and who live it day by day, our ambassador [Zalmay Khalizad] or General [George] Casey [the top U.S. military official in Iraq]. I ask this question all the time, tell me what it's like there, and this notion that we're in civil war is just not true according to them. These are the people that live the issue. . . .

"The Iraqi government and the Iraqi military is committed to keeping this country together. And so therefore, I reject the notion that this country is in civil war based upon experts, not based upon people who are speculating. . . .

"That's how I learn it. I can't learn it -- I can't -- frankly, can't learn it from your newscasts. What I have got to learn it from is people who are there on the ground."

Blitzer let the issue drop.

The reality check only came several hours later, as Soleded O'Brien was talking to CNN Iraq correspondent Michael Ware. The Crooks and Liars blog has the video.


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