Facing the Ugly Truth

By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Thursday, December 7, 2006; 12:14 PM

For six years, President Bush and his aides have so brilliantly exploited the bully pulpit of the White House that it was easy to forget that there were any other pulpits at all in this town.

That allowed the president to proselytize his world view, repeatedly and without effective objection, even when it didn't conform with reality.

Yesterday's blazing hot media focus elsewhere -- on the highly critical bipartisan Iraq Study Group -- marked a restoration of reality in Washington.

And that, combined with a resurgent Democratic Party, bodes ill for Bush's ability to keep avoiding some ugly truths.

Reality Check

Glenn Kessler and Thomas E. Ricks write in The Washington Post: "The Iraq Study Group report released today might well be titled 'The Realist Manifesto.'"

Strictly speaking, Kessler and Ricks meant "realist" as in the school of foreign policy that rivals the "neoconservatives" -- but they could just as well have said "realistic."

"From the very first page, in which co-chairmen James A. Baker III and Lee H. Hamilton scold that 'our leaders must be candid and forthright with the American people,' the bipartisan report is nothing less than a repudiation of the Bush administration's diplomatic and military approach to Iraq and to the whole region. . . .

"Overall, it strongly suggests that President Bush, Vice President Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have bungled diplomacy in the region with unrealistic objectives and narrow strategies. . . .

"The report's description of the violence in Iraq, which amounts to an attack on the administration's understanding of the facts on the ground, will likely set the new baseline for how the Iraq conflict is portrayed. . . .

"The report is replete with damning details about the administration's competence in Iraq. It notes, for instance, that only six people in the 1,000-person U.S. embassy in Baghdad can speak Arabic fluently, and recounts how the military counted 93 acts of violence in one day in July when the group's own examination of the numbers found 1,100 acts of violence. 'Good policy is difficult to make when information is systematically collected in a way that minimizes discrepancy with policy goals,' the report says."

Carolyn Lochhead writes in the San Francisco Chronicle: "Naked reality came crashing down on the Bush administration Wednesday as the Iraq Study Group issued its long-awaited recommendations in a last-ditch effort to stave off a 'catastrophe' in Iraq and the Middle East.

"Unlike the posturing and obfuscations that the administration and many in Congress have engaged in since the war began more than 3 1/2 years ago, the elder statesmen of the bipartisan commission spoke with frank clarity of a 'grave and deteriorating' situation and an arduous path forward that could yet fail."

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