The Republican talk machine apparently has an 800 number for people to call before they appear as pundits, experts or other types of talking heads on talk shows. The idea is that conservative chatterers like Mary Matalin, Grover Norquist or Bill Frist need to get their stories straight, so the Republipigs give them a literal party line to adhere to. That's how the echo chamber effect works.
This week will certainly test the right's ability to create publicly accepted truth from mantra-like repetition, as President Bush & Co. attempt to unsay something he said first thing Monday morning. Asked if the U.S. can win the War on Terra, the commander-in-chief told NBC News: "I don't think you can win it. But I think you can create conditions so that thethose who use terror as a toolare less acceptable in parts of the world."
An unwinnable war? Perpetual fighting against an indefinable enemy (in this case, an abstract noun)? Sounds a bit Orwellian. But give him points for honesty: "Hell no, you can't win," he meant to say, "but if we're always at war, I'm always a war president. And Karl says that's good."
Of course the milquetoast Democrats pounced on Bush because they thought his preemptive admission of defeat would make him look weak and spineless, not like action hero John Kerry and sidekick John Edwards. "What if President Reagan had said that it may be difficult to win the war against communism?" Edwards asked rhetorically. "The war on terrorism is absolutely winnable."
Democrats invoking Reagan? Republicans conceding defeat in war? Dick Cheney loving lesbians? This is a confusing campaign. Luckily, there's White House press secretary Scott McClellan to clear things up. Apparently Bush "was talking about winning it in the conventional sense." No peace treaties with terrorists, he meant to say.
Hmmm, that's not entirely persuasive. Which is why the president had to speak loudly and clearly so many times at Tuesday's American Legion National Convention at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel. (That and because the median age of attendees was about 68.)
He did well, and in typically unsubtle fashion. According to the Bush narrative, America is involved in "a war we did not start, yet one that we will win." In case anyone missed it, the president reiterated that "We are winning and WE. WILL. WIN." (The guy likes to speak loudly and slowly at the ENDS. OF HIS. SENTENCES.) And lest there be any confusion, the president cleared up liberty's origin: "Freedom is not America's gift to the world. Freedom is the Almighty God's gift to each man and woman in the world."
Incidentally, the reason that sentence should send real fans of democracy into the streets isn't just that Bush elides church and state to create some sort of official global deity. It's that he elides church and state and sets himself up as the official bestower of God's gift to humankind. If you oppose his war now, you're not just anti-American, you're anti-freedom and anti-God. Next, he'll say sugar and spice, babies and puppies are all inextricably connected to his wars for peace.
The American Legion crowd was not one for dissenters, though. They were there to hear synthesizer versions of military anthemsalong with "Deep in the Heart of Texas"and a montage of Sept. 11 images set to Darryl Worley's cynically exploitative ballad, "Have You Forgotten?" They were also there to see Bush's most valuable political prop, Sen. John McCain. The uncomfortable-looking former POW arrived with the president, got a few major ovations and said nothing. Bush, however, quoted him in a spirited defense of the American flag's sacredness and right to go unburned. The crowd ate it up.
But the mark of Rove, and his talking points, were apparent throughout the morning. Acting Army Secretary Les Brownlee, speaking before the president's arrival, said, "I agree with our president: we will win the war on terror." Never mind that the president had only 24 hours earlier said precisely the opposite. Then there was Secretary of Veterans Affairs Tony Principi, who said of his department, "We're making great progress. We need to stay the course." Staying the course? Fictionally agreeing with the president? Administration higher-ups probably don't even have to call the 800 number.
So between the American Legion speech and a hastily arranged appearance on Rush Limbaugh's radio show, George W. got his little flip-flop cleared up. Victory is once again an option. And as a diversionary bonus, he called attention to the famous flops and flips of his funny French adversary. (The American Legion was actually started in France.) As a sign off, the president thanked the legionnaires for their idealismwhich is appropriate, because it takes a lot to see things his way. Then he shook some hands and headed for the exit.
Afterward, so did hordes of veterans. One summed it up best: "That's a long time without a smoke." But no shortage of smoke and mirrors.
No pigtails Pink, just pig.
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