Saturday, September 09, 2006

Bush and Cheney Can't Turn Back the Hands of Time

It's not as though we haven't seen it coming. So reports, like this from the New York Times, that Bush is trying to use the 9/11 anniversary to regain some of his lost political stature barely qualify as news:
When President Bush and his top aides gathered in July to sketch out a strategy for the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, it was clear to all that they had to try to reset the clock — back to a time, before Iraq, when portraying Mr. Bush as a steely commander in chief was a far simpler task, and before Hurricane Katrina, when questions about the administration’s competence did not weigh so heavily.
From those discussions emerged the speeches Mr. Bush has delivered over the last week, the leading edge of a remarkably intensive and aggressive campaign in which he has tried to regain ground he has lost for more than two years, by turning the conversation away from Iraq and back toward the broader war on terror.
It is a carefully calibrated strategy that will continue in coming days, first with an appearance Sunday morning by Vice President Dick Cheney on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” the vehicle he used to advantage at key moments after Sept. 11 and then Mr. Bush’s appearance that night at ground zero in New York and a prayer service at St. Paul’s Chapel.
Actually, there is very little about the BushCheneyRove strategy that could be called subtle or "carefully calibrated" as the Times put it. But that's not why it won't work.
First, they are up against the laws of thermodynamics. We don't quite know why, but the arrow of time flows in one direction. They can't turn back the clock, and they can't erase the record of what has happened since.
Second, no matter how hard Bush tries to make terrorism, not Iraq, the subject over the last few days, he no longer controls the public discourse on terror and Iraq.
The furor over the fictional docudrama on ABC has crowded the airwaves this week. It's hard to make the case that Democrats in general, and Clinton in particular, are soft on terror when the story is about a docudrama about real events that just makes stuff up.
As for using the debate in congress over military tribunals to paint Bush's critics as soft on terror, it turns out that the principle alternative to Bush's plan has been put forward by three prominent Republican senators.
And then there is the pesky problem of the record of the last five years. The Senate Intelligence Committee yesterday released two lengthy reports on the inteligence failures leading up to the war in Iraq. In normal circumstances, releasing such a report on a Friday would consign it to the dustbin of journalism, but not in this instance, because of the 9/11 annivesrary and because it will take journalists and observers several days to read the things.
Things are getting hotter for Donald Rumsfeld. Yesterday, the Hampton Roads edition of published this story on Rumsfeld's refusal to do any rational planning for occupying a Middle Eastern country:
Months before the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld forbade military strategists from developing plans for securing a post-war Iraq, the retiring commander of the Army Transportation Corps said Thursday.
In fact, said Brig. Gen. Mark Scheid, Rumsfeld said "he would fire the next person" who talked about the need for a post-war plan.
Rumsfeld did replace Gen. Eric Shinseki, the Army chief of staff in 2003, after Shinseki told Congress that hundreds of thousands of troops would be needed to secure post-war Iraq.
Part of the Bushies' "carefully calibrated strategy" for the next few days includes another appearance by Dick Cheney back on "Meet the Press." I would be surprised if, in the wake of the Senate Intelligence Committee report, Tim Russert isn't ready for this. Here's a famous comment from Cheney on March 30, 2003:
Well, I don’t think it’s likely to unfold that way, Tim, because I really do believe that we will be greeted as liberators.
Here's what Cheney said on the program on September 14, 2003:
We learned more and more that there was a relationship between Iraq and al-Qaeda that stretched back through most of the decade of the ’90s, that it involved training, for example, on BW and CW, that al-Qaeda sent personnel to Baghdad to get trained on the systems that are involved. The Iraqis [are] providing bomb-making expertise and advice to the al-Qaeda organization.
Russert hasn't been shy about replaying such clips in the past. I expect Cheney will be ready for the questions and do his best to avoid being pinned down. But in the process, he will also have a tough time controlling the discussion.
Bush, Cheney and their apologists will try, but they can't turn back the clock, and they can't erase the record of the last five years.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Their strategy will still motivate the GOPer core, thank goodness that the rest of America ain't buying it again.

7:53 AM, September 11, 2006  

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