The Truth, Mainly - 11/06/2006

On Bush, Iraq, and epiphanies
by Leon Satterfield

I had an epiphany around 8 o'clock last Tuesday morning.

I took notice of it because my usual epiphanies occur later in the day. And the few epiphanies (isn't that a wonderfully pleasing word?) before noon usually come after I've had too many cups of too-strong coffee and I'm not thinking very clearly.

But Tuesday, it wasn't the coffee. It was Leonard Pitts' column on the Journal-Star editorial page. I've always liked reading Leonard's columns because the first four letters of our first names are the same and I've always hoped that readers might give me credit for something Leonard wrote.

But it wasn't his name that epiphanized me last Tuesday. It was what he wrote.

He began his column with a paragraph from George Orwell's "1984"—you know, the read-and-weep, look-into-the-future novel published back in 1948. And Tuesday, Pitts laid this Orwellian quotation on us:

"If all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed—if all records told the same tale—then the lie passed into history and became truth. 'Who controls the past,' ran the Party slogan, 'controls the future: who controls the present controls the past."

And with that introduction, Pitts began quoting directly President George W. Bush about our current war:

• "I'm here to tell you we're going to stay the course" (Nov. 28, 2003).

• "We've got to stay the course, and we will stay the course" (April 5, 2004).

• "The United States of America will stay the course" (Nov. 21, 2004).

• "We will stay the course; we will complete the job in Iraq" (Aug. 4, 2005).

• "We will stay the course" (Aug 31, 2006).

And then the President said this: "Listen, we've never been 'stay the course.'" (Oct. 22, 2006).

Get that? I'm not sure I get it because I don't know what it means to have "never been 'stay the course.'" But somehow, it sounds like a reversal of "staying the course."

And Leonard Pitts noticed it.

Anyone have any questions about why Pitts was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 2004?

Or about why the Bush administration's approval ratings have fallen so far in the view of so many Americans?

And then the president tries to distract us from the Pitts line of thinking by suggesting that the war in Iraq is justified because the Iraqis started it on 9/11.

And dumb me, I thought from what I read in the newspapers and saw on television that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, that the World Trade Center was brought down by a plan ramrodded by Osama bin Laden who's not at all an Iraqi and has the reputation of hanging out in Afghanistan caves. Who, the last I heard, was still running free, in large part because our president seems not much interested in bringing him to justice.

But to tell the truth, I feel sorry for the president. He's in so far over his head that he must feel like he's being waterboarded. He's catching it from all sides.

Here's what Hans Blix, former U.N. weapons inspector, was quoted as saying by the Danish newspaper, "Politiken": "Iraq is a pure failure. If the Americans pull out, there is a risk that they will leave a country in civil war. At the same time it doesn't seem that the United States can help to stabilize the situation by staying there."

And the same issue (Nov. 1) of the NY Times that ran that story ran another on Republican dissatisfaction with the war. It was about Thomas H. Kean, a New Jersey Republican running for U. S. Senate and also running an ad that says we should "change the course in Iraq. Replace Rumsfeld."

And an anonymous GOP strategist was quoted as telling GOP candidates that "If you aren't speaking out against the way that this war has been conducted, you are dead in the water."

And so on.

Nor is the president getting any useful help from Tony Blair-who's in about as much trouble from the Brits.

I get the idea that President Bush's biggest mistake has been to surround himself with advisors like Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld and Karl Rove. No offense intended to those three, but I bet the president would have been getting far better advice from his wife or his father or his mother or his daughters.

To say nothing of Pulitzer Prize-winning columnists like Leonard Pitts.

And one last word: Be sure to vote tomorrow. Unless, of course, you're planning to vote for the wrong candidates. In which case, just write in my name.

If elected, I shall not serve.


Retired English Professor Leon Satterfield writes to salvage clarity from his confusion. His column appears on alternate Mondays. His e-mail address is:

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