If politics is theater then the last two days have been a lot like the movie Clueless. The American public has turned decisively and irrevocably against the war in Iraq. The American people know this war is lost and it is borne out in countless polls. Yet with a few exceptions, nobody in the White House or Capitol Hill can acknowledge that we are hanging in on a fool’s errand. That is why the excrement really hit the fan yesterday. The normally hawkish Pennsylvania Representative John Murtha yesterday simply acknowledged the sad reality in Iraq, and called for the immediate withdrawal of our troops from Iraq. This stirred up a huge hornet’s nest.
There is an elephant sitting in the White House Briefing Room. There is another one roaming Capitol Hill. These elephants though do not represent Republicans. Instead, they are the elephants in the room that no one wants to acknowledge. These elephants have a simple message: we have lost the war in Iraq. It is all over but the body count. What we are witnessing, at least those of us tuned to C-SPAN, are furious denials asserting that the elephant is simply not really in the room. Despite massive and undeniable evidence that we have lost Iraq it cannot be openly acknowledged in Congress. Consequently, the Republican House leadership has its death rays trained on Rep. Murtha, a conservative, pro-defense advocate, who shed blood for this country in Vietnam. Murtha is the infidel that dared to acknowledge the elephant. The ironic part is they are really aiming their death rays at their own heads, but are too clueless to understand it.
Meanwhile the White House hopes that with sufficient vitriol, the elephant will disappear. Therefore, we get White House press secretary Scott McClellan absurdly comparing Rep. Murtha with Michael Moore. Yet what choice does Bush have? This is his only card: the wan hope that with sufficient pompous bravado and “stay the course” rhetoric that America will suddenly fall behind him again.
Ain’t gonna happen. Bush has cried wolf one too many times. He is now a parody of himself. All he can do is cry “Stay the course!” when it is clear to everyone but those who placed their trust in him that staying the course simply means more fiasco lies ahead.
Hello! It has been two and a half years since we unwisely invaded Iraq. Is the situation any better than it was when Bush declared “Mission Accomplished” on the deck of the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln? No, sorry, it is worse. Much worse. Moreover, it is not as if we have another army in our back pocket to improve the situation. It is quite clear to the American people that what we are doing in Iraq is not working. Something needs to change! Bush is like the guy with a shot engine and broken transmission convinced that if he adds another quart of oil the car will run as good as new. The American public clearly sees the smoke belching from the engine. We see the transmission in pieces on the ground. “Well, he’s pretty clueless,” is what the American people are thinking. When asked by a pollster, we let him know what a buffoon in allegedly leading our country. According to Harris, Bush’s approval ratings are plummeting even further, to 34%.
Yes, of course it is more of “stay the course”. That is all Bush knows how to do. That is his philosophy in a nutshell. Admit no mistakes. The War in Iraq is just another faith-based initiative. Remember, we are getting rid of “evil”. Terrorists in Iraq, and the governments of Iran and North Korea have nefariously joined forces and created an Axis of Evil out to destroy America, turn us into Muslims or Communists (the lines get kind of blurry) and, oh yes, stomp on cute little bunnies too. That is the kind of people these evildoers are. Consequently, when anyone of consequence dares to disagree with him he has to paint them as actively aiding and abetting terrorists. It is amazing that he does not arrest them as enemy combatants. His buffoonery is no longer humorous. Instead, we see him as the small, naked and pathetic shell of a man that he is.
The arguments for war against Iraq get more and more bizarre. We are told that Bill Clinton thought Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction too. Hello! Yes, he thought Saddam was a dangerous man and was concerned that Saddam might have had WMDs. Here is the difference: Clinton was way too smart to wage a preemptive war based on conflicting intelligence. But Bush had his ideology to guide him. He was incapable of looking at the evidence impartially. He trusted his guts, not the evidence. Now he is being called to account. Why? Because in the real world people who make decisions about war based on gut feelings encounter this gaping pothole called reality. It was the reality pothole, not evildoers, which resulted in the senseless death of over 2000 of our soldiers and the resulting insurgency in Iraq.
Subconsciously Congress realizes that they have been taken for suckers. The thought is too terrifying to acknowledge, so for most it has not yet surfaced. They voted their fears and biases rather than doing what they should have done: make an informed decision based on debate and a hard look at the evidence. So most of them find themselves trapped between a rock and a hard place. For now, they feel they have no choice but to continue goose-stepping behind the President, even though the President has already goose-stepped off the cliff. It will be clear in retrospect, when so many of them are tossed out of office in 2006 and 2008 that they should have leveled with their constituents. It is much better to plead a mea culpa on their vote for the Iraq war, then work to solve the situation than to march off the cliff with their foolish leader. For in politics in the end it only matters what the voters think on Election Day.
Those who are now castigating Representative Murtha will, within weeks I suspect, be fervently wishing they too had acknowledged the elephant in the room. Those who do something concrete to change the course of our involvement will likely be rewarded by voters. It could be something like calling for staggered troop withdrawals, or setting deadlines for Iraqi troops to assume full responsibility. Whatever it is, it must acknowledge the elephant. For the U.S.S. United States has already hit the iceberg. The hull has been breached. Water has been surging in for some time. In fact, the stern of the ship is already submerged. Those in Congress who are members of the reality-based community are already in the lifeboats. Those in Congress who want to be reelected have two choices: jump in the lifeboats or try to save the ship. Even if saving the ship is likely to be futile, at least they can say they took some action to change the unwinnable current strategy.
However, standing on the deck cheering on Capt. Bush is political folly.