Adam Ash

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Sunday, March 05, 2006

US Diary: Bush's problem with the truth

Seattle Times editorial: Heck of a Job, Mr. President

The Bush administration has a substantial credibility problem. Things it says turn out not to be true. Again and again.

Two troubling examples made the news last week, and they illustrate a serious problem rooted in a combination of political arrogance, incompetence and disdain for the audience. Often it seems the White House, or the president himself, offers the American public an incredulous shrug to punctuate the plea, "Who could have known?"

In Iraq, a virulent insurgency is killing civilians and American soldiers. Before the war, the Bush administration said the U.S. military would be greeted as liberators by a grateful public. Almost three years of mayhem and chaos later, the White House blames the insurgency on the residue of Saddam Hussein's supporters and foreign terrorists.

Who could have known?

In 2003, the White House was repeatedly warned the insurgency had deep local roots and could lead to civil war. Local conditions, not foreign terrorists, would fuel the flames. The information was prepared by a committee of senior intelligence analysts at the request of the U.S. military command.

As the insurgency gained strength, what did President George W. Bush have to say? "Bring 'em on."

A voice of the neoconservative political movement who fired the imaginations of so many Bush political disciples sees the roots of the administration's arrogance in the collapse of the Soviet Union and communist satellites. Writing in The New York Times Magazine, Francis Fukuyama observed:

"The over-optimism about postwar transitions to democracy helps explain the Bush administration's incomprehensible failure to plan adequately for the insurgency that emerged in Iraq." He said although they claim they knew all along that Iraq's transition would be long and hard, "they were clearly taken by surprise."

Not for a lack of good, available information and adequate warning.

This past week, as New Orleans celebrated a ragged but determined Mardi Gras, the same scenario of information and denial was exposed.

Transcripts and a government video revealed the administration and the president were warned in advance about the perils of Hurricane Katrina, the vulnerability of levees and the potential for catastrophe.

The president is not directly responsible for making sure ice and cots are available, but he is accountable for the urgency of the response by his team.

Before the storm hit, he was told firsthand about the dangers. So, it is mystifying how he could stand before the American public four days later and declare no one could have anticipated the levees being breached.

Earlier, a room full of people he presumably leads told him exactly that.

President Bush is great at sales, but he cannot deliver a product -- time after time.


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