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The View From Bush's Dead End

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By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Friday, September 19, 2008; 12:49 PM

Wondering how President Bush rationalizes his conviction that history will vindicate him?

Washington Post opinion columnist Charles Krauthammer this morning offers insight into Bush's thinking -- and an extraordinary example of the contorted logic required to defend what ever-increasingly appears to have been a massively failed presidency.

Bush hasn't had an extended interview with a reporter since early August, hasn't held a news conference in more than two months, and won't even take quick questions at photo ops anymore. Nevertheless, the president found an hour to talk to Krauthammer about his legacy on Monday.

The columnist emerged with the following message: Bush is not aloof and detached, as observers such as author Bob Woodward would have you believe.

No, he is possessed of "equanimity."

"In the hour I spent with the president (devoted mostly to foreign policy), that equanimity was everywhere in evidence," Krauthammer writes, "not the resignation of a man in the twilight of his presidency but a sense of calm and confidence in eventual historical vindication."

To support the argument for historical vindication, Krauthammer indulges in -- or perhaps more accurately, passes along -- one fallacy after another. The most outrageous is the assertion that going to war in Iraq -- which Krauthammer admits remains a bit controversial -- was not entirely the Bush administration's call. "Bush was hardly alone in that decision," Krauthammer writes. "He had a majority of public opinion, the commentariat and Congress with him."

But a central point of the repeatedly validated Bush critique is that the president (either knowingly or cluelessly, we're still not quite sure) led a massive misinformation and exaggeration campaign that led the nation into supporting the war on false pretenses. That his propaganda campaign worked does not somehow allow Bush to evade his personal responsibility. Quite the contrary.

Similarly, Exhibit A for Bush's fortitude is the president's decision -- "in the face of intense opposition from the political establishment (of both parties), the foreign policy establishment (led by the feckless Iraq Study Group), the military establishment (as chronicled by Woodward) and public opinion itself" -- to order a troop surge in Iraq.

"The surge then effected the most dramatic change in the fortunes of an American war since the summer of 1864," Krauthammer writes.

But despite the Washington conventional wisdom, there is plenty of reason to doubt the surge's effectiveness. See, for instance, my interview on NiemanWatchdog.org with author Peter Galbraith.

Galbraith explains that violence in Iraq is down for a variety of reasons -- least among them the surge. And his key and very important point is that if "victory" in Iraq is a secular, democratic and pro-Western Iraq, then the surge -- regardless of what the White House and its defenders would have you believe -- has not gotten us any closer. Rather it has led rival factions to dig in their heels, consolidate their power, and prepare for an epic battle once the coast is clear and Bush is long gone.


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