DUBYA IN THE DUMPS
PRESS CONFERENCE A DISASTER
YESTERDAY, at a press conference that was unquestionably the most dispirited performance of his presidency, President Bush implicitly answered a question many close Bush watchers had asked after the thumpin' the Republican Party took in November.I guess one would have to assume that Mr Podhoretz is not drinking the kool-aid anymore.
The question was this: How would Bush, who himself had only suffered electoral success since seeking higher office in 1994, handle defeat? The answer: Not well.
"I encourage you all to go shopping more," he said - expressing a strange anxiety about the economy's retail sales after he had just trumpeted how strong those sales had been and how strong the economy has been in general.
Asked about the pregnancy of Mary Cheney, his vice president's lesbian daughter, Bush offered a response that contradicted itself three times in the course of three sentences: "On the - on Mary Cheney, this is a personal matter for the vice president and his family. I strongly support their privacy on the issue, although there's nothing private when you happen to be the president or the vice president. I recognize that."
And on Iraq, he said things were tough, and were going to continue to be tough; that he had said we were winning earlier in the fall but now recognized we weren't winning - and asked for patience as he consulted with his advisers and Democrats about a new way forward there.
So in a few months, the president has gone from taking the position that the public needed to hear him speak optimistically about Iraq to speaking in quite dour terms about Iraq without offering anything but a hope that in a few weeks, he'll come up with a new strategy.
It really would have been better had he not come forward to face the press at all - because he did nothing except underline and echo a powerful sense of uncertainty throughout his own government about how to achieve victory.
Gladdening the hearts of the enemy!
As usual, the president took pains to warn the enemy in Iraq that "they can't intimidate America." But, by offering no real sense that he knows what "the way forward in Iraq" is, he seemed unsteady - and unsteadiness is exactly the quality that should and will gladden the hearts of the enemy in Iraq.So what happened to the "steadfast leader". Of course he never was one, it's just that the spin isn't spinning anymore.
If you combine the effect of yesterday's press conference with his remarkably depressing interview with The Washington Post the day before - when he said that victory was "achievable" in Iraq, a defeatist word that must have had Winston Churchill rolling in his grave - you can't help but feel that Bush has had the stuffing knocked out of him by the twin blows of the November election results and the bloody chaos in Baghdad.
Of course the one thing Mr Podhoretz fails to mention is that Bush is in this sorry position because he listened to delusional neocons like - well, John Podhoretz.