Monday, October 04, 2004

The New York Times > Opinion > BOB HERBERT: Bush and Reality

The New York Times > Opinion > BOB HERBERT: Bush and Reality:
"There undoubtedly were many reasons for Mr. Bush's lackluster effort. But I think there was one factor, above all, that undermined the president in last week's debate, and will continue to plague him throughout the campaign. And that was his problematic relationship with reality.

Mr. Bush is a man who will frequently tell you - and may even believe - that up is down, or square is round, when logic and all the available evidence say otherwise. During the debate, this was most clearly displayed when, in response to a question about the war in Iraq, Mr. Bush told the moderator, Jim Lehrer, 'The enemy attacked us, Jim, and I have a solemn duty to protect the American people, to do everything I can to protect us.'

Moments later Senator Kerry clarified, for the audience and the president, just who had attacked the United States. 'Saddam Hussein didn't attack us,' said Mr. Kerry. 'Osama bin Laden attacked us. Al Qaeda attacked us.'"

With no weapons of mass destruction to exhibit, and no link between Saddam and Al Qaeda, Mr. Bush has nevertheless tried to portray the war in Iraq as not only the right thing to do but as largely successful. The increasing violence and chaos suggest otherwise. Even as the presidential debate was being conducted, details were coming in about car bombings earlier in the day in Baghdad that killed dozens of Iraqis, including at least 34 children.

The children were not in school because the turmoil had prevented the opening of schools.

The political problem for Mr. Bush is that while he is offering a rosy picture of events in Iraq - perhaps because he believes it, or because he wants to bolster American morale - voters are increasingly seeing the bitter, tragic reality of those events. A president can stay out of step with reality only so long. Eventually there's a political price to pay. Lyndon Johnson's deceit with regard to Vietnam, for example, has never been forgiven.

The president likes to tell us that "freedom is winning" in Iraq, that democracy is on the march. But Americans are coming to realize that Iraq is, in fact, a country in agony, beset by bombings, firefights, kidnappings, beheadings and myriad other forms of mayhem. The president may think that freedom is winning, but television viewers in the U.S. could see images over the weekend of distraught Iraqis pulling the bodies of small children from smoking rubble – a tragic but perfect metaphor for a policy in ruins.

Remember, being President is hard.
Apparently, commanding the facts is harder.

The man needs some rest. Let's give it to him. Because we need someone who knows that freedom is strength, that the foundation of freedom is truth, and that the basis of truth is reality, not ideology.
con·cept: The New York Times > Opinion > BOB HERBERT: Bush and Reality