Thursday, March 09, 2006

Another Delicious Irony

You have to admit, Bush, it's a delicious irony. Those rebel Republicans attaching their rejection of the US ports deal--the rejection you threatened very publicly to veto--to the bill authorizing funds for your wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the Katrina relief efforts. Talk about a rock and a hard place. A mean squeeze they've left you in, your allies in the House. And now the good folks in the Senate are threatening to attach their own rejection to a measure that's intended to resolve some of those political corruption problems, proposing changes in the rules affecting travel benefits and gifts from lobbyists. In either case, your first and only veto threatens to blow up in your face,

And all this comes at a time when even your friends are questioning your leadership skills and your poll numbers continue to sink. The image of strength and integrity is beginning to crack. Well, not even beginning, really. The cracks are too obvious at this point to ignore. You insisted once again, yesterday, that America must show strong leadership in the world, only hours after your Cheney made us look absurd and powerless with his saber-rattling in the direction of Iran. To which Iran came back without a blink with its own threat: "The United States has the power to cause pain and harm," Iran's ambassador to the IAEA said yesterday, "but the United States is also susceptible to harm and pain. So if that is the path that the US wishes to choose, let the ball roll out." And the truth is, we have severely limited our options in this matter. Our implied military threats ring hollow in the complexity of this particular situation.

Here's what I think, Bush: I think your whole history of your presidency, from the beginning of the first campaign, has been based on the notion that image and perception sell better than substance. You were successful, for example, in having your people paint a picture that seemed to justify your preemptive war in Iraq, and you sold that picture to all but a handful of the American people. The problem is, a fake is still a fake and, at one time or another, some smart person is going to spot it and start telling the truth. And eventually the substance catches up with you, whether you want it to or not.

So the irony of the day is that you got hoist, as the say, on your own petard. As I see it, the fuss about the ports deal is more about image than substance: from the purely rational, business point of view, the security issue doesn't make much sense. It's an emotional issue, with image as the prime manipulant. Arabs equal Muslims equal terrorists running our ports! What a farce! It's an irrational, instinctive perception that speaks to the American gut. It has your Republicans running for their political lives, and voting--gasp!--against their strong and trusted leader. The mask of the Commander in Chief, the great War President, is stripped away, and it leaves you looking weaker every day.

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