Posted July 16, 2007 | 12:45 PM (EST)
I know it’s a pretty high bar, but Bill Kristol, the founder of the Project for a New American Century that spawned the Iraq war, the man whose editorials often seem to be inserted directly into the president’s speeches, and who once boasted that “Dick Cheney does send over someone to pick up 30 copies of [The Weekly Standard] every Monday,” has now just written the single most deceptive piece of the entire war.
The charitable view is that he’s lost his mind. The less charitable view is that he’s now officially surpassed Dick Cheney as the most intellectually dishonest member of the neocon establishment (the highest of all high bars). The truth-shattering piece appeared yesterday on the front page of the Washington Post Outlook section. It is entitled “Why Bush Will Be A Winner.”
I had a preview of this deluded triumphalist drivel a couple of days earlier — on Thursday afternoon specifically. Even more specifically, I was on the 4:00 pm Amtrak Acela from New York to Washington.
Kristol was sitting a row behind me, talking on his cell phone with someone who apparently shared his optimism. “‘Precipitous withdrawal’ really worked,” I overheard him say, clearly referring to the president’s use of the term in that morning’s press conference. “How many times did he use it? Three? Four?” he asked his interlocutor, and the conversation continued with a round of metaphorical back-slapping for the clever phrase they had “come up with.”
I, of course, have no idea who was on the other end. Tony Snow, perhaps? After all, he and Kristol were colleagues before Snow left Fox. But whoever it was, the emphasis during their conversation on the significance of the “clever” phrase has been emblematic of the White House prepping of the president.
Instead of sending their boss out with the real facts or logical arguments, Bush’s aides and their friends (see Kristol) concoct some nonsense phrase in the spin lab, hand it to him and tell him to go out there and repeat it as often as he can. The latest is “precipitous withdrawal.” It’s the new “cut and run.” It’s actually not all that new: back in January 1969, Richard Nixon used it again and again in his famous “Silent Majority” speech: “The precipitate withdrawal of American forces from Vietnam would be a disaster not only for South Vietnam but for the United States and for the cause of peace.” Again and again throughout the speech, Nixon used the phrase to paint the nightmarish consequences of a “precipitate withdrawal” from Vietnam. Almost forty years later, George Bush is using the slightly tweaked “precipitous withdrawal” to paint his own nightmarish scenario of what will happen if American forces leave Iraq. And for that, apparently, we have Bill Kristol to thank. At least partially.
In an interview with David Carr in March 2003, Kristol sounded just as pleased with himself and with his president as he’s sounding today. “I’m a little amused but pleased,” he said, “that the bus has become more crowded and that it is headed in the right direction.” Well, the bus is a lot less crowded today — and a lot more dilapidated. But Kristol remains as confident as ever that he and Cheney and their other neocon friends are still steering it in the right direction.
It is truly incredible that, at this late date in the Iraq debacle, there are still people who believe that a few well-focus-grouped phrases will change the tragic facts on the ground.