Thursday, November 17, 2005

It won't work this time

E.J. Dionne, Jr.
Washington Post Writers Group

It won't work this time
Bush's latest speech won't garner support

WASHINGTON — Mr. President, it won't work this time.

With a Wall Street Journal/NBC News Poll finding 57 percent of Americans agreeing that George W. Bush “deliberately misled people to make the case for war with Iraq,” the president clearly needs to tend to his credibility problems. But his partisan attacks on the administration's critics in a Veterans Day speech last week will only add to his troubles.

Bush was not subtle. He said that anyone accusing his administration of having “manipulated the intelligence and misled the American people” was giving aid and comfort to the enemy. “These baseless attacks send the wrong signal to our troops and to an enemy that is questioning America's will,” Bush declared. “As our troops fight a ruthless enemy determined to destroy our way of life, they deserve to know that their elected leaders who voted to send them to war continue to stand behind them.”

You wonder: Did Patrick Fitzgerald, the special counsel in the Valerie Plame leak investigation, send the wrong signal to our troops and our enemy by daring to indict Scooter Libby for perjury and obstruction of justice?

Must Americans who support our troops desist from any criticism of the use of intelligence by the administration?

There is a great missing element in the argument over whether the administration manipulated the facts. Neither side wants to talk about the context in which Bush won a blank check from Congress to invade Iraq. He doesn't want us to remember that he injected the war debate into the 2002 midterm election campaign for partisan purposes, and he doesn't want to acknowledge that he used the post-9/11 mood to do all he could to intimidate Democrats from raising questions more of them should have raised...