NYT: Bush in "Fantasy Land?"

March 21st, 2006 7:00 AM

Today’s “Bush Concedes Setbacks” piece in the NYT by Elisabeth Bumiller contains questionable passages that give her “angle” away.

Here is a slice seemingly right off the editorial page:

“Over all, Mr. Bush's speech was a positive message that conceded some of the setbacks on the ground, a formulation meant to portray the president as not living in a fantasy world about the three-year-long war.

And all of us out here in American sincerely believe that President Bush actually does float around in a fantasy land regarding his understanding of the war. None of us have access to any other information regarding the status or unfolding of the war effort, save what the New York Times chooses to report, so it is helpful to have this characterization opined at us.

Perhaps telling Bumiller what she wants to hear, the President then spake thus

"In the face of continued reports about killings and reprisals, I understand how some Americans have had their confidence shaken," he said. "Others look at the violence they see each night on their television screens and they wonder how I can remain so optimistic about the prospects of success in Iraq. They wonder what I see that they don't."

From here, Bumiller then makes an inference:

To answer that, Mr. Bush told his audience his story of Tal Afar..."

Answer what? Nothing was asked. The President noted that people may have shaky confidence, but telling the story of Tal Afar does not mean that this is his elixir-like "answer."

This is an important detail, because it sets up another curious passage regarding the operation in Tal Afar (with progress followed by its obligatory BUT):

“Military analysts do not dispute Mr. Bush's version of events, and correspondents on the ground say that the security situation in Tal Afar is significantly better than it was before the military operation last fall… BUT the analysts also say that the offensive required so many American troops — 5,000 — that it would be difficult if not impossible to replicate in other parts of Iraq, particularly in Baghdad, and that success in Tal Afar does not translate into improved security for most Iraqis.”

It is never enough to say that the unnamed analysts did not dispute the President’s version of the events, according the NYT credo of “anything good is bad, anything bad is better.” So why the “BUT?” In this case, Bumiller takes it upon herself to answer questions nobody asked (except, presumably, her question to herself) by noting that success in Tal Afar doesn’t translate into success everywhere in Iraq. Nobody asserted this at any point. Most of us are intelligent enough to realize that police officers who reduce crime in Deluth do not reduce crime in Philadelphia. The last caveat thrown in at the end of the sentence is a not-so-veiled attempt to throw cold water on another successful military operation.

The crowd also “queried him about the administration's secret eavesdropping program and the failure to find unconventional weapons in Iraq, among other topics.”

It would be nice if the reporter let us in on what “other topics” were discussed or other types of questions that were asked. I’m willing to bet that there were other topics discussed that were perhaps more favorable to the President’s record that did not merit mention. If Bumiller can throw cold water on even the most encouraging news that can be gleaned from a tough situation, she can surely humor her readers with a little more detail here.

Don’t wait up.