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Bush Almost Admits a Mistake

   [Detained by the baseball story -- see below -- I'm the last person on the planet to comment on Bush's prime-time Oval Office address to the nation. There are glossy magazines that have faster reaction times than this blog. I'm slower than House & Garden. I'm pretty sure Woodward has already published a book about it.]

   A word thrown around in the wake of Bush's talk Sunday night was "conciliatory." Maybe by this president's standards. He didn't say that his critics were necessarily traitors to their country. He didn't say that anyone dissenting from the White House line is guilty of betraying our troops. But I'm sure many viewers who are not fans of this Administration were struck by the tortured acknowledgment of the WMD fiasco:

  "It is true that many nations believed that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. But much of the intelligence turned out to be wrong. And as your President, I am responsible for the decision to go into Iraq."

    This is not exactly admitting a mistake. Technically, he is merely blaming the "intelligence" (are there human beings attached, or is the intelligence non-corporeal?). Only the "And" in the following sentence keeps it from sounding like a non-sequitur. But still, Bush was acknowledging something that gave him no pleasure. I was half-expecting that he'd follow this with the sentence, "Therefore I have decided to resign my office at noon tomorrow."

    I thought Bush looked strangely small and agonized on TV on Sunday night. Presidents have serious problems when their words make people feel worse rather than better. So much of this business is about momentum. And maybe he's gotten some back. The big news this morning is that Bush is up again in the polls after his face-plant in November.

     The poll numbers represent a strengthening of his base rather than conversions in the political middle. Left of center, he remains a demon. (Go to any Lefty blog and it's like watching a contest to see who can hate Bush more.) Meanwhile, The Post's Jackson Diehl argues that democracy is on the march in the Middle East, or at least is taking some baby steps forward. Unknown is whether these events would have happened without the American prosecution of the war in Iraq. There is a fallacy called post hoc ergo propter hoc, which, as I understand Latin, translates to "after hoc, therefore because of hoc." I am still working on what "hoc" means.

  We are open here in this blog to other opinions, pro and con, conservative and liberal, half-baked and completely deranged. Let me note that it has been a while since we heard from the Trotskyites or the Anarcho-Syndicalists. Some excerpts from yesterday's Boodle:

   CowTown: This Administration's Scorched Earth approach to governance has alienated too many people for this attempt at "outreach" to do much good.

    Achenfan: He addresses the American people -- and the world -- as though we're imbeciles.

   Silvertongue: The speech will get some coverage as somehow being "substantive," but only because the bar has been set so low. He lays out a false choice between "victory" and "defeat" with neither coherently defined. We're going to stay until we win; if we don't, we've lost. The tautology would be nauseating if it hadn't been repeated so frequently that I'm numb.

    Curmudgeon: I have to join the growing list of people who can't abide watching Bush. It's not the content (which is bad enough)--it's that smarmy personality I can't hack. Couldn't watch Reagan, either, though I had no trouble with Bush Sr., Ford -- and the Archfiend himself, Richard Nixon. I think it has less to do with content and politics than with personality and delivery.

    Linda Loomis: There was the theme that illuminates Bush's mind: "..there are only two options before our country: victory or defeat." I think he really believes that. Everything is simple to him. Yes/no. Good/evil. With us/Against us. Then he says: America's actions in Iraq... will lay the foundation of peace for our children and grandchildren." That is really like the Big Lie and reminds me again of the 60's era bumpersticker that said Fighting for Peace is like [fill in the f-word here] for Chastity.

By Joel Achenbach  |  December 20, 2005; 8:38 AM ET
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