by Jim Babka
Pretend for a moment that you’re George W. Bush. For the last two weeks
the news has been filled with talk about how your central policy – a
war against a nation that never attacked the United States, never even
threatened to, and almost certainly couldn’t have after a decade of
sanctions and embargoes – is failing. The media is reporting, with
seeming delight, how…
* Your promise for a transitional government by June 30 rings hollow,
* Leaders of the provisional government are being assassinated,
* Hundreds of servicemen and women are dying, and
* Pictures of sexual abuse of Prisoners of War by your Department of
Defense – gross violations of the Geneva Convention – are splashed all
over newspapers and television.
And worst of all, your job approval rating is plummeting. It’s
dropping, just like your father’s approval rating did when he was
running for re-election. It’s falling in the same manner that Jimmy
Carter’s rating did when he was running for re- election.
Your handlers all realize what the Pew Charitable Trust, Gallup, Zogby,
and the Democratic Leadership Council has already announced in various
forums; that the job approval rating of a sitting president in May of
the election year is the best predictor of that president’s election
And your numbers just dropped to 47%. Even worse, your disapproval number just reached 51%.
What do you do? How do you stop the free-fall? How do you change what
the media is talking about? How do you move those pictures off the
front page and the discussion of prisoner abuse off of talk radio?
You call a press conference. You announce a crisis. And if you’re
George W. Bush you reach for your proven favorite – terrorism.
You and your crew may have screwed up in Iraq, but Americans still see
you as strong against terrorism. It’s time to call a press conference
to remind them of that.
And Wednesday, that’s exactly what the Bush Administration did.
Attorney General John Ashcroft spoke to the media and changed the news
cycle. The plan appears to have worked. Since then, no one’s talking
about your long list of failures and a P.O.W. scandal this morning.
The level of terrorist activity and the need for a press conference may
be real. But given how this administration has lied about terrorist
threats in the past, I’m a wee-bit skeptical – about the timing that is.
(Note: No sooner had I written this column then evidence arrived to
bolster my skepticism: According to Friday morning’s National Journal,
“Homeland Security officials ‘say they had little advance notice before
Attorney General John Ashcroft’ on Wednesday ‘issued his broad warning’
of a possible terrorist attack, the Wall Street Journal reports.
‘Homeland Security officials believed the information being used by
Justice, much of which had been known for some time, was not new or
specific enough to merit an announcement or other action.'”)
The explosion of a Spanish train right before their national elections
was an indication we should expect something similar here. And the
photos coming out of Abu Ghraib are recruitment postcards for Al Qaeda,
increasing the odds we’ll be attacked this Summer. That’s not news.
So was Ashcroft standing up for our safety yesterday or did Karl Rove
decide it was time to change the story to save Bush’s political
ratings? I don’t know. The information yesterday may all have been
But even that says something about this administration. The admission
that we should be on the lookout for such an attack means we might not
even be winning the War on Terrorism. All this effort has amounted to
little. And the Bush-led foray into Iraq may have even increased the
odds we’ll face another September 11th.
There’s only one long-term solution to the disastrous foreign policy of
the United States – a policy so hideous it creates enemies all over the
globe. Keep telling the story of Iraq so that no American president
will ever want to do such an illegal and stupid thing again.
So while the President tries to change the front-page story, we’ll stick to the facts.
Here’s a FACT: 65 American servicemen have died in Iraq during the
month of May, including one Army soldier and three Marines the same day
Ashcroft was holding his press conference. Of course, news of the four
was lost in the hubbub of Ashcroft’s headline- stealing press
Got comments? Email me, dammit!