Monday, October 04, 2004

Bush and Reality

...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.

Mr. Bush got his big bounce in the public opinion polls from the Swift boat nonsense and the mocking, nonstop criticism of Senator Kerry at the Republican National Convention. Those were distractions from the real world. But reality cannot be kept at bay indefinitely. Readers of The Washington Post got a disturbing dose of it yesterday from a front-page article about the strain being put on the overloaded systems of veterans' disability benefits and health care by the thousands of American troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with physical injuries and mental health problems.

The article noted that "President Bush's budget for 2005 calls for cutting the Department of Veterans Affairs staff that handles benefits claims."

A staff sergeant who was paralyzed in a mortar attack near Baghdad was quoted as saying: "I love the military; that was my life. But I don't believe they're taking care of me now."

The real world is President Bush's Achilles' heel. He can't keep his distance from it forever.

Reality is one of the President's problems. I also think he has a deep desire to be liked. That's why his staff only puts him in front of adoring crowds and why he refused to question Kerry's character in the debate (even joking about his daughters, with the "leash" comment.) He thinks that admitting a mistake will make him less well liked. What we have is a little boy at the helm of our ship.

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