Now that the Iraqi Governing Council’s political appointments have displaced the Abu Ghraib and 9/11 hearings on the front pages, the great debacle has taken on a more distanced tenor and the stream of incoming news has grown a tad more wieldy. (That in itself is some kind of blessing. If in March and April Bush had the worst six weeks any president has had since the summer of ’74, for the average citizen trying to keep up with the breaking news and assimilate it all into some kind of knowable whole became a truly daunting task.) This has to please the White House since it was just that other kind of news – in which a new scandal broke almost daily and was inexorably accompanied by another handful of American deaths – that it was having no luck in managing.
Even now it can’t buy a break, though. You’d think that God had sent Karl Rove a ribbon-wrapped package when a star NFL player who turned down a fat contract to join the Special Forces was killed leading a San Juan Hill charge in Afghanistan, but alas, Pat Tillman turns out to have been a victim of friendly fire. And when what’s seen as the crown jewel of the “liberal media” has to prostrate itself before the world for its credulous reporting, the administration can’t even take any (public) satisfaction from the fact because the very wrongdoing that The New York Times is fessing up to is its reckless acceptance of Bush’s (and Chalabi’s) word that Hussein was sitting on a Blofeldian stockpile of WMDs. In the meantime John Kerry keeps edging up in the polls as he (finally) begins to spell out a foreign policy that emphasizes national security over world transformation, which is the same sort of “America is not the policeman of the world” philosophy so much beloved by Republican voters – not to mention the campaign-trail version of one George W. Bush.
All of which may help to explain the clouds of bitterness and confusion currently hanging over 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. When first Nancy Pelosi and then Kerry accused Bush of “incompetence,” the GOP howled as if the charge were first-degree murder, signaling that the bull’s eye had been pretty squarely hit. (Their claim that Pelosi had crossed some imaginary “line” sounded especially thin-skinned coming from the folks who did such a number on John McCain in the 2000 primaries and Max Cleland in the ’02 election.) John Ashcroft dramatically announced that Al Qaeda is poised to hit the U.S. again, and yet the color-coded Alert Level for Dummies wasn’t raised and Heimat Security head Tom Ridge all but pooh-poohed the threat. Similar confusion reigned around who exactly – U.N. envoy Brahimi or the IGC – picked the new prime minister, the administration grew more desperate for the international support it so arrogantly shined on little more than a year ago, the Chalabi divestiture has the neo-cons grinding their teeth, Colin Powell continues to explore the boundaries of the reservation, and what was billed as Bush’s major address about Iraq’s immediate future last Monday night was notable mainly for its lack of details. (He didn’t even mention Iraq while dedicating the new World War II memorial over the weekend.)
Naturally, none of this means anything, it’s still a hell of a long way until November, and I don’t trust Kerry’s ability to bring the campaign home any further than I can throw him. But if like me you’ve never seen any hardcore proof that karma is a real thing, it’s hard not to take some pleasure from the fact that Bush and his fellow bastards can’t be dropping off to sleep too easily these days. In the words of the immortal Nelson Muntz: Ha-ha!