The president prides himself on being a pig-headed guy. He is determined to win in Iraq even if he is not winning in Iraq.
Even for a White House steeped in hooey, it's a challenge. President Bush will have to emulate the parsing and prevaricating he disdained in his predecessor: It depends on what the meaning of the word "win" is.
The president's still got a paper bag over his head, claiming that the daily horrors out of Iraq reflect just a few soreheads standing in the way of a glorious democracy, even though his commander of ground forces there concedes that the areas where more than half of Iraqis live are not secure enough for them to vote - an acknowledgment that the insurgency is resilient and growing. It's like saying Montana and North Dakota are safe to vote, but New York, Philadelphia and L.A. are not. What's a little disenfranchisement among friends?
"It's going to be ugly," Joe Biden told Charlie Rose about the election.
The arrogant Bush war council never admits a mistake. Paul Wolfowitz, a walking mistake, said on Friday he's been asked to remain in the administration. But the "idealists," as the myopic dunderheads think of themselves, are obviously worried enough, now that Mr. Bush is safely re-elected, to let a little reality seep in. Rummy tapped a respected retired four-star general to go to Iraq this week for an open-ended review of the entire military meshugas.
Mr. Wolfowitz, who devised the debacle in Iraq, is kept on, while Brent Scowcroft, Poppy Bush's lieutenant who warned Junior not to go into Iraq, is pushed out as chairman of the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. That's the backward nature of this beast: Deceive, you're golden; tell the truth, you're gone.
Mr. Scowcroft was not deterred. Like Banquo's ghost, he clanked around last week, disputing the president's absurdly sunny forecasts for Iraq, and noting dryly that this administration had turned the word "realist" into a "pejorative." He predicted that the elections "have the great potential for deepening the conflict" by exacerbating the divisions between Shiite and Sunni Muslims. He worried that there would be "an incipient civil war," and said the best chance for the U.S. to avoid anarchy was to turn over the operation to the less inflammatory U.N. or NATO.
The Iraqi election that was meant to be the solution to the problem - like the installation of a new Iraqi government and the transfer of sovereignty and all the other steps that were supposed to make things better - may actually be making things worse. The election is going to expand the control of the Shiite theocrats, even beyond what their numbers would entitle them to have, because of the way the Bush team has set it up and the danger that if you're a Sunni, the vote you cast may be your last.
It is a lesson never learned: Matters of state and the heart that start with a lie rarely end well.
People will keep dying in Iraq that didn't have to. Bush will clear brush in Crawford and think he's a big hero. He's not. In his quest for glory, he's managed to divide both the United States and Iraq, and put both countries in the shitter for many years to come. And that was in his first four years. I wonder how much damage he'll do in the next four now that he's got the hang of it.