Leonard Pitts Jr.
You know the guy I mean.
Maybe he works two cubicles over, maybe you went to school with him, maybe he’s your brother-in-law. You could call him the guy who’s never wrong, but that wouldn’t be quite accurate.
He is the guy who never “admits” he’s wrong. The guy who says, “That’s what I said” when the record shows he said something else entirely. The guy who honors only those facts that are convenient, whose memory filters out anything contradicting his version of reality. The guy who dumps mop water on your head and swears it’s raining.
You know that guy. How could you not? He’s the president of the United States.
Not that high political office has changed his tendency to massage or ignore inconvenient truths, particularly where the war in Iraq is concerned. It is, of course, old news that the reason we were given for fighting the war — weapons of mass destruction — has been changed. Old news that the president refuses to concede any such change has taken place. Old news that he refuses to acknowledge the case for war might have been flawed.
Here’s new news. Last week, David Kay, the former U.S. chief weapons inspector, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that, contrary to what the Bush administration repeatedly claimed and Kay himself previously believed, Saddam Hussein probably did not possess weapons of mass destruction. That, while the CIA was not pressured to fabricate or exaggerate evidence of said weapons, the agency did provide bad intelligence. And there should be an independent investigation to figure out how that happened.
Which seems perfectly reasonable to me, though evidently not to President Bush.
The White House has dismissed the idea of an investigation. Bush is still getting mileage from his strategy of claiming that when he said we had to topple Saddam because he had weapons of mass destruction, he meant we had to topple Saddam because he was oppressing the Iraqi people. So you can understand why he’s reluctant to turn the discussion back to the elusive weapons.
The upshot being that we spent more than $50 million to find out whether Bill Clinton prospered through some obscure land deal or was unfaithful to his wife. But we won’t spend a red cent to independently investigate intelligence failures leading to war, the loss of more than 500 American lives, untold thousands of other deaths, and a worldwide increase in anti-American sentiment.
Is it just me, or does that make zero sense? And if you get it and I get it, why don’t they get it?
The answer: political expediency. And the fact that the president is that guy who never admits he’s wrong.
So his administration floats along in a reality of its own making, oblivious to grave and growing doubts that its case for war holds water or ever did. Doubts David Kay crystallizes.
It is, he testified, “important to acknowledge failure.” Again, the reasoning is unassailable.
You acknowledge failure because it protects your credibility, assures people that you have a higher objective than safeguarding your own backside. You acknowledge failure because doing so helps you avoid future mistakes. You acknowledge failure because that’s what it takes to be a stand-up guy.
I wish Bush understood these things. I’d have more respect for him if would just say that he made a judgment in good faith based on bad information. Evidently, that kind of candor is beyond our famously plain-spoken president.
But it becomes ever clearer we did not fight the war we thought we were fighting, did not lose lives in the cause we thought we were advancing. This raises questions that demand answers.
Apparently, they are not forthcoming. The president is too busy landscaping the executive mansion. He’s spreading fertilizer and putting up a stone wall.
Leonard Pitts is a columnist for the Miami Herald. Readers may contact him at:email@example.com