There's a cartoon by The Washington Post's Tom Toles that shows President Bush as a Boy Scout leader who has led his young charges neck-deep into a swamp. The caption: "I didn't mislead. You misfollowed."
And indeed, the president's latest defense regarding pre-war intelligence seems to be a variation of that caption: "We weren't evil. We were idiots -- and so were you." As presidential slogans go, it comes up a bit short of "The buck stops here." And as a political talking point, it explains, as much as anything, why Bush's poll numbers are falling faster than Hummer sales.
In the months before the war, in what we now know was a calculated plan, the administration convinced a majority of Americans and Congress that Saddam needed to be removed from power. The issue was presented as "kill or be killed by a terrorist with a nuke." Most of the world and many Americans didn't believe it. Around the globe, tens of thousands of people demonstrated in protest. But fear won out over reason, and America started its first war.
But as the rationale for the war morphed from self-defense to "building democracy in the Middle East," the American public realized they'd been snookered. Fighting and dying to save your country is one thing. Fighting and dying to democratize Iraq is quite another.
In his latest speeches, Bush accuses critics of "rewriting history" and equates criticism of his policies with not "supporting the troops." That trick isn't going to fly this time. Bush has jumped the shark. Even his partymates in the Senate have figured out where the tide of public opinion is headed. The senators know better than most how America got into this mess.
And they know history is indelible.
Bruce VanWyngarden, Editor
My stepdaughter, Agatha, has moved back from Brooklyn to live in our garage apartment until next summer. She's a law school grad and clerking for a federal judge in Memphis. I love her dearly, but she has one habit that has caused me stress. She takes in foster dogs ...