Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Media Focusing on Wrong Revelation From Bush Biography

I do tears. I've got God's shoulder to cry on. And I cry a lot. I do a lot of crying in this job. I'll bet I've shed more tears than you can count, as president. I'll shed some tomorrow.
- President Bush in a biography about him written by Robert Draper, as quoted in an AP story published on Time magazine's website

So, Bush cries. Seems only fair, given all the tears he's caused in others, from the families of soldiers killed in Iraq, to the dependants of National Guard troops backdoor drafted into multiple tours of duty, to anyone affected by a disease or condition that could be cured through stem cell research ... I could go on for 1000 words and not run out of miseries caused by this president (though his Iraq policy has caused little or no tears for Osama bin Laden, the Taliban, Iran and Al-Qaeda recruiters, to name just a few beneficiaries of Bush's failed expedition in Iraq).

Okay, so now that I've got that cheap shot out of my system, what really struck me about this non-story is that there was actual news buried inside of it that nobody seemed to really notice or talk about. Instead of blasting a headline about Bush's obviously calculated admission of being human (imagine having to prove that to a country), why aren't there front page headlines and "Breaking News" updates on CNN about the true news contained in the early excerpts from the Bush biography written by Robert Draper?

For example, the AP/Time article contains the revelation from the book that Bush:

"Acknowledged that sectarian violence after the U.S. toppled Saddam Hussein was 'something we didn't spend a lot of time planning for. We planned for what happens if Saddam and his people dug into Baghdad,' and we figured the Iraqi leader was fomenting ethnic divisions that would ease when he was gone. The opposite happened."

Go back and read that again. The president of the United States, often called the most powerful man in the world, freely admitted that he invaded another country and deposed its leader, against the wishes of nearly every country in the world (he spoke of the "Coalition of the Willing," but really most of the world's nations were members of the "Group Wondering If Bush Has Lost His Freaking Mind"), without planning for what to do about the ethnic divisions that had been kept in place by the leader for the last 40 years.

The real story is, in black and white, that Bush is acknowledging what we already know: That he is so certain about everything, he acts with the underlying understanding that he is never wrong. Only, he is nearly always wrong. He has been wrong about nearly every single action and prediction regarding Iraq. And, he was wrong about the sectarian divide, which has caused the U.S. to be bogged down in a quagmire in Iraq.

Now, you might say, "Come on Mitchell, aren't you playing Monday morning quarterback? Who knew that the sects would fight rather than come together in joy at the ouster of Saddam Hussein?" Uh, everyone. I'm playing Sunday at 1 p.m. quarterback. At game time, everyone knew that the Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds were not ready to kiss and make nice in Iraq.

It's not like it was a crazy theory that the ethnic divisions in Iraq would prevent a peaceful, united government from replacing Hussein. And it wasn't just a group of lefty peaceniks who were saying that. The president only had to look to the vice president for that information. Bush's father's administration chose not to take out Hussein in the first Gulf War for that very reason. As everyone knows by now, Vice President Cheney explained the rationale in 1994 (he was defense secretary under Bush 41):

"Once you got to Iraq and took it over, took down Saddam Hussein's government, then what are you going to put in its place? That's a very volatile part of the world, and if you take down the central government of Iraq, you could very easily end up seeing pieces of Iraq fly off: part of it, the Syrians would like to have to the west, part of it -- eastern Iraq -- the Iranians would like to claim, they fought over it for eight years. In the north you've got the Kurds, and if the Kurds spin loose and join with the Kurds in Turkey, then you threaten the territorial integrity of Turkey. It's a quagmire if you go that far and try to take over Iraq."

(Watch Cheney say it for yourself in this YouTube clip.)

So, in a nutshell, everyone, including the president's most trusted advisor, the vice president, knew that there was potential (I'm being kind here, go with it) for the ethnic divide to sink Iraq into civil war once Hussein was deposed. Even if Cheney claims that 9/11 changed everything, causing him to believe that taking out Hussein was worth the risk, it's not like he forgot about the very real possibility of ethnic clashes. He should have known there could be conflict between the Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds and planned for that contingency.

And yet, Bush admits he did not plan for that very eventuality.

In virtually any other job on the planet, such negligence would result in instant dismissal. What if a store manager failed to protect his store from a hurricane, even though every television station ran non-stop news items warning of an impending hit from the storm for the previous 72 hours? Fired. What if a chief financial officer failed to instruct her company to put money aside for back taxes, even though the government had notified her that the company was about to be audited for missed tax payments? Fired. What if a football team's defensive coordinator didn't install a single pass defense in the game plan for a contest against Peyton Manning? Fired.

But with Bush, it wasn't a damaged store, business going bankrupt, or lost football game that was at stake. It was nearly 4,000 American soldiers killed, tens of thousands of American soldiers wounded, and hundreds of thousands of American soldiers having their lives irreparably changed, not to mention the hundreds of trillions of dollars thrown away and the severe damage done to the U.S.'s place in the world. And yet, not only is Bush not fired, he is walking around as if he was just given a raise and a promotion. Because, you see, he knows he's right, even when he's wrong, and even when he admits he was wrong. He continues to cling to his wrong beliefs, doing more and more damage to the country.

As an aside, even the writer of the biography fits perfectly into the Bush playbook. The president clearly believes that if you're not from Texas, you're not worthy of a key job (or, conversely, if you're part of his Texas posse, you are qualified for any job, even if you're not, really). So, how how surprised should anybody be that Draper, the biographer, is a former writer for Texas Monthly, for whom he profiled Bush when he was governor. Good thing President Clinton didn't have the same home state obsession, or instead of Stephen Breyer on the Supreme Court, we would be reading opinions from Justice Amy Lee (the lead singer of Evanescence; it's not like there are a whole lot of famous people from Arkansas).

So as you look at those headlines, stamped with Bush's approval, about the president's private tears, think instead about his admission of his indefensible failure to plan for the aftermath of the war in Iraq. The media doesn't seem to want to look past the tabloid-friendly image of the president weeping, and they have failed in their job to report the true news to the American people. I guess there is only one explanation: None of the major news outlets are based in Texas. At least that would be Bush's explanation. And he would be 100 percent certain that his assessment was correct. Facts be damned.