Wednesday, September 29

Lousy, OK, or Better

With these words — "Lousy, OK, or better" — George Bush summarized, last week, a report by the National Intelligence Council on the three most likely states of affairs in Iraq by next year.
Little matter that the report offered a spectrum that went from "instability" to "civil war." When an optimistic, strong leader who never wavers reads "instability" and "civil war" and sees (or pretends to recall seeing) "lousy," "OK," or "better," what are we to think? Would it be too bold of me to suggest that it would be in the interest of the American people to have a president who knows how to read a National Intelligence Estimate, communicate its contents to others, and make sound policy decisions with its assistance?

This is the second time in a row an NIE has landed in the president's hands only to be ignored or dismissed. On the previous occasion, Bush was warned, before attacking Iraq, that such an attack would cause nationwide instability (in Iraq) and guerrilla warfare. Bush did not prepare for this scenario in advance and now acts as if he had reason to doubt or be surprised by its emergence.

When Bush's "never wavering" amounts to hallucinatory denial, I say, ladies and gentlemen, it is time for new leadership in our nation. Bush rode the National Intelligence Estimate that overplayed the threat of Iraq's possessing WMD like a fuming bronco; but, when the NIE don't seem politically expedient or flattering to him, he says of the National Intelligence Council that they were "just guessing." That insult to the responsibility of policy-making would be egregious enough if it weren't also clear that Bush doesn't apparently even know what the most recent estimates concerning Iraq were. (In light of the first comments to this post, I insist on the word "apparently," for we all know that Bush is smart enough to remember what he read, or was briefed on, when it goes to the heart of his foreign policy decisions.)