The Sunday political talk shows have become the Sunday shell game for Bush administration mouthpieces trying to dodge questions and explain away each other's contradictory statements on Iraq. Today's star witness was Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, although the backstory for this latest televised round of bait and switch was a particularly ill-advised remark by VP Dick Cheney a few weeks ago. Let's take it step by step.Late May
- The initial flapdoodle in an interview
that airs on CNN's "Larry King Live":
June 23, morning
CHENEY: I think they’re in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency.
- Gen. John Abizaid (top U.S. commander in the Persian Gulf) tells
the Senate Armed Services Committee that "there are more foreign fighters coming into Iraq than there were six months ago" and that the overall strength of the insurgency is "about the same" as six months ago.June 23, midday
- White House spokesman Scott McClellan at a news briefing
is asked if Bush agrees with Cheney on the "throes" thing (good luck figuring out what McCLellan is talking about):
June 23, evening
Q: Does the President agree with the Vice President that the Iraqi insurgents are in their last throes?
McCLELLAN: He agrees with -- I think you should put his comments in context, because the President agrees that there is significant progress being made by the Iraqi people on the political front. And that's what the Vice President was talking about in his remarks. He was talking about the significant progress that's being made, and he was talking about how the terrorists, the ruthless enemy that we're working to defeat, along with the Iraqi security forces, has not been able to stop that progress. Every step of the way, the Iraqi people are meeting their objectives. I just went through those objectives that they're meeting. The political process is moving forward. It's moving forward on schedule. And the Iraqi people have shown that they want to live freely. Democracy is taking hold. There are real challenges that lie ahead, and the Vice President talked about that in the context of his remarks. The stakes are very high. That's why it's important we continue to support the Iraqi people as they move forward.
- Cheney returns to CNN with a dictionary to pick up the pieces in an interview
with Wolf Blitzer:
BLITZER: [Gen. John Abizaid] says that the insurgency now is at a strength undiminished as it was six months ago, and he says there are actually more foreign fighters in Iraq now than there were six months ago. That doesn't sound like the last throes.
CHENEY: No, I would disagree. If you look at what the dictionary says about throes, it can still be a violent period - the throes of a revolution. The point would be that the conflict will be intense, but it's intense because the terrorists understand if we're successful at accomplishing our objective, standing up a democracy in Iraq, that that's a huge defeat for them. They'll do everything they can to stop it.
on Fox News Sunday
, Chris Wallace throes Rumsfield (who borrows Cheney's dictionary for the occasion) a question:
WALLACE: Is the insurgency in its last throes?
RUMSFELD: Well, you know, everybody's running around trying to make a division between what the vice president said or someone else said. The fact is that if you look at the context of his remarks, last throes could be a violent last throe, just as well as a placid or calm last throe. Look it up in the dictionary. Now, is that any different from what General Abizaid said or General Casey? No. I mean, the insurgency is going on. It ebbs and flows.
...and later in the interview...
RUMSFELD: We're not going to win against the insurgency. The Iraqi people are going to win against the insurgency. That insurgency could go on for any number of years. Insurgencies tend to go on five, six, eight, 10, 12 years.
Last throes ... 12 years ... whatever.