Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Bush: Of course we can win, but I don't think we can win, so we will win.

Many moons ago, Six Flags Over Texas used to have a ride called “Spindletop.” By the way, Six Flags Over Texas was the original Six Flags amusement park. Bonus points for those who can name all six flags which have flown over Texas. Back to Spindletop...People would walk into a circular area and stand with backs against the wall. Then the ride would begin to turn–slowly at first, then faster...and faster...and faster until the floor dropped but the people did not because of the centrifugal force. Well, the rate of spin of Spindletop ain’t nothin’ compared to the spin coming out of the White House the last few days.

The cause of all the commotion is something that good ol’ W. his own self said in an interview with Matt Lauer which aired on Monday’s Today show on NBC. You might want to take a Dramamine or some other motion sickness medicine before proceeding. Now that I have fulfilled any legal duty to warn you, I’ll start slow, just like Spindletop.

In a press conference on April 13, 2004, Bush said this:
One of the interesting things people ask me, now that we're asking questions, is, can you ever win the war on terror? Of course, you can.
Nothing surprising from George there. That seems to have been his position all along. He reiterated his stance in a July 30, 2004, speech:
I have a clear vision on how to win the war on terror and bring peace to the world.
So when does the ride start? Here’s part of the interchange between Lauer and our strong, fearless leader in the battle against terrorism:
Lauer: You said to me a second ago, one of the things you'll lay out in your vision for the next four years is how to go about winning the war on terror. That phrase strikes me a little bit. Do you really think we can win this war on terror in the next four years?

President Bush: I have never said we can win it in four years.

Lauer: So I’m just saying can we win it? Do you see that?

President Bush: I don't think you can win it. But I think you can create conditions so that those who use terror as a tool are less acceptable in parts of the world--let's put it that way.
(emphasis added). OOPS! There has been a ride malfunction. The floor has already dropped before people are safely pinned to the wall. Just when I thought Kerry’s “sensitive war on terror” was about the dumbest thing I had heard from a Presidential candidate, here comes George with “I don’t think you can win (the war on terror).” This is far worse than Kerry’s gaffe. The Republicans have always criticized Kerry for being soft and weak–a charge Kerry has not aggressively disproven. Thus, Kerry’s “sensitive war on terror” fit right into the Republicans’ attack and Kerry’s less than definitive defense. On the other hand, George W. Bush has always been portrayed as the greatest force in civilized history opposing the evil of terrorism. The very basis for his current campaign is his alleged leadership in the war against terrorism. And now, George W. Bush his damn self says he doesn’t think the war can be won!

There was no time to stop the ride, reset the floor, and start over again. The Republicans tried to fix the malfunction by immediately cranking up the spin to a speed that would flatten Einstein’s hair and turn Schroedinger’s cat into a dog.

Before analyzing the “clarifications” issued by the White House, I want to point out that while the Today interview aired on August 30, the interview was taped on August 28.

At approximately 10:55 a.m. (CDT) on August 30 during a press gaggle aboard Air Force One, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan really got the ride moving:
Well, he was talking about winning it in the conventional sense. That's what he was talking about. I mean, this -- you've often heard him talk about how this is a different kind of war. We face an unconventional enemy. And it's -- I don't think you can expect that there will ever be a formal surrender or a treaty signed, like we have in wars past.
Look back at what Bush said. He first said that he did not think the war on terror could be won. Did he say “in a conventional sense?” Not just no, but hell no. Second, notice that Bush did expound upon his “can’t win” comment. He said, “But I think you can create conditions so that those who use terror as a tool are less acceptable in parts of the world--let's put it that way.” Is that in any way close to what McClellan said? Again, not just no, but hell no.

Now look closely at what Scotty-boy said. This war was fought against a sovereign nation and its military, which is to say a conventional enemy. It was fought by our military using conventional weapons. It was pretty much a conventional war. Yet I am unaware of any formal surrender by the former regime, and I am unaware of any peace treaty that ended this war. I believe all we have is Bush’s May 1, 2003, declaration of the end of major combat operations and a “Mission Accomplished” banner (see this post for a detailed discussion). By McClellan’s terms, then, does that mean that we never actually won the war, or that the war has never ended?

Meanwhile, back at the ranch (figuratively speaking)...Bush gave a speech in Nashville to the American Legion National Convention on August 31. On the way there, at 8:45 a.m. (CDT) again on Air Force One, Scott McClellan had another chat with some reporters.
Q American Legion speech, something new we haven't heard before?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think some of his remarks will be similar to what you have -- what you heard at the Veterans of Foreign Wars. I expect there will be some new language in the remarks and some contrasts. I also expect the President will talk about winning the war on terrorism. We are winning the war on terrorism and we will win the war on terrorism. The President will make that crystal clear in his remarks, as he has many times before. And that the way -- you know, we will win the war on terrorism by continuing to take the fight to the enemy, and we will win the war on terrorism by continuing to spread freedom. And I expect he'll make that crystal clear in his remarks.
(emphasis added). Yes, Bush has made that crystal clear oh so many times--except when he said "I don't think you can win (the war on terror)."
Q Do you feel like his remarks yesterday to NBC got blown out of proportion, or why does he feel the need to make it crystal clear?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, he's done it many times before. There are some out there that are intent on trying to create a false perception.
(emphasis added). This brings to mind my favorite Vera Carp line: "Glass houses..." FYI, Vera Carp is a character from the Greater Tuna triology, which is a theatrical treasure straight from Texas (created by Joe Sears, Jaston Williams, and Ed Howard).
Q Are these remarks, then, a response to that?

THE PRESIDENT: I think that it's the President making it crystal clear that not only are we winning it, but we will win it.
By the way, I got the transcript from the White House web site, and the transcript says "THE PRESIDENT" instead of "MR. McCLELLAN." So, the President's speech was going to make it crystal clear that what he said in the Today interview was wrong. Or am I missing something?

According to the transcript on the White House web site, at 9:00 a.m. (CDT) on August 31, Bush addressed the American Legion:
In this different kind of war, we may never sit down at a peace table. But make no mistake about it, we are winning, and we will win. We will win by staying on the offensive. We will win by spreading liberty. We believe that liberty can transform nations from tyranny into peaceful nations. And so we'll keep our commitments in Afghanistan and Iraq. We will help them become peaceful and democratic countries that are allies in the war on terror.
Wow! That Scott McClellan must be psychic! Just 15 minutes earlier he said that Bush was going to say that. Oh, wait...if McClellan is psychic, then why didn't he know that Bush was going to say something so amazingly stupid in the Today interview? In any event, the day after the broadcast of that interview showed Bush saying he didn't think we could win the war on terror, there he was saying "we are winning, and we will win."

But Georgie wasn't finished. That afternoon, he was interviewed by my favorite pill-popping hypocrite, Rush Limbaugh. Here's how Bush explained his Today comments:
Listen, I should have made my point more clear about what I meant. What I meant was that this is not a conventional war. It is a different kind of war. We're fighting people who have got a dark ideology who use terrorists, terrorism, as a tool. They're trying to shake our conscience. They're trying to shake our will, and so in the short run the strategy has got to be to find them where they lurk. I tell people all the time, "We will find them on the offense. We will bring them to justice on foreign lands so we don't have to face them here at home," and that's because you cannot negotiate with these people. And in a conventional war there would be a peace treaty or there would be a moment where somebody would sit on the side and say we quit. That's not the kind of war we're in, and that's what I was saying.
Maybe I was wrong about Scott McClellan. Maybe he is psychic! I can see it now. On those oh so rare occasions when Bush misspeaks and needs help finding just the right words, he closes his eyes, clicks his heels three times, and says, "Beam me up, Scotty." Seriously, give me a break. George, in the Today interview, you never said "conventional war." You never said "different kind of war." You never said "peace treaty." You never said anything remotely close to what you told Oxycontin Boy. "I should have made my point more clear about what I meant." First of all, you should have said that in some form which is grammatically correct, and secondly, not only should you have been more clear on your point, you had the opportunity to do so as soon as you made the statements in the Today interview. Instead, you said "let's put it that way" and nothing more.

But wait--Bush had even more to say to Rush (that name now has a whole new meaning):
Really what I was saying to Lauer was, is that this is not the kind of war where you sit down and sign a peace treaty. It's a totally different kind of war. But we will win it.
Again, George, you said nothing of the kind to Matt Lauer.

Go back and read what I said about McClellan's comments about conventional wars, peace treaties, and formal surrenders. Bush basically repeated McClellan's words (again). Does this mean that Bush is now saying that we never really won the war in Iraq?

So, Bush is trying to convince us that his statement that "I don't think you can win (the war on terror)" actually means "we will win the war on terror." I can only hope that anyone on this Spindletop ride walks out not feeling dizzy but like something in his or her brain has been awakened--something that allows one to see this spin for what it is: pure bullshit.

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