Monday, October 30, 2006

On big, round, bitter, uncoated pills of pride

Okay, so on CBS Sunday Morning yesterday, Ben Stein, whom I love as an actor and detest as a political commentator, said something that I really, really liked. Who knew?
Times are very tough in Iraq and if I was still a speechwriter for the President, like I was for Mr. Nixon and Mr. Ford, this is what I would suggest he say:

My fellow Americans, I have some sobering news. It is my duty, above all, to protect the nation. I sincerely believed I was doing that when I ordered the invasion of Iraq. I still believe Saddam Hussein was the most dangerous man in the world. But it is clear to me now that things are not working out well in Iraq. Despite the incredible confidence, bravery and sacrifice of our men and women on the ground there, Iraq is still a violent, largely out of control nation. We may be making more terrorists than we destroy. "Quagmire" comes sadly to mind. It is clear that change must be made. Therefore, I have this morning accepted Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's resignation with sincere thanks for his service to the nation. He will be replaced by a truly heroic American, Senator John McCain of Arizona.

Despite my best intentions, I made mistakes in Iraq and mine is the responsibility. Good men and women died and hard-earned tax money was lost. Fine young men and women are crippled and disabled, which is a tragedy. It is time for a change. Therefore, I am convening an official, national, bi-partisan, blue ribbon commission composed of Democrats, Independents and Republicans, civilian and military, to start meeting at once and give me a recommendation in one month as to what our Iraq policy should be. All options are on the table. All.

I want to close with this thought. I am just a man. I have no miraculous powers. I have no special pipeline to God. Like all presidents from Jefferson and Lincoln onwards — and believe me, I know I'm not in their league — I make mistakes and sometimes good people die because of them. I am deeply sorry. As we re-examine our policy, I would ask that you all pray for us to make the right decision. May God continue to bless us all. Thank you.

I think that sums it up nicely. I do think that Bush thought he was doing the right thing when he ordered the invasion of Iraq. I still don't know what it is he thought he was doing, and we now know that he wasn't doing the right thing, but I'll accept that he thought he was doing the right thing.

Here's why I don't think it'll fly, though.

The first reason is that Bush is incapable of admitting he's made a mistake. This is a man who's claimed his biggest misstep was saying "Bring it on" at the beginning of the war (that is, of course, when he can think of any mistake he's ever made). Despite his onetime claim that the buck stops with him, he's never been reluctant to push the blame off on a lower-level functionary, staffer, or occasional member of the armed forces. When life hands him lemons, he just rewrites the rules, or rewrites history, until he comes out on top. So the chances of him uttering the words "I made mistakes in Iraq and mine is the responsibility" without choking on them are right up there with the chances of him pronouncing "nuclear" correctly.

The other reason is that he doesn't think he's "just a man." He doesn't think he "has no miraculous powers." This is a man who talks to God and claims that God talks back. He's a man who thinks the Constitution gives him power to suspend civil liberties, ostensibly in the interest of national security. He calls himself a president and has claimed for himself the powers of a dictator, and he insists that such cowboy bravado and unitary executive power are necessary to keep the terr'ists in their place. He thinks that humility is a sign of weakness. He thinks that restraint is a sign of impotence. And that's why we're in this situation in the first place.

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