Rich Rounds Up Broadway and Sends It Off Against the War

"Churchill mobilized the English language and sent it into battle." - Edward R. Murrow

Give Frank Rich credit for this: he doesn't run from his theater-critic past. Like a mirror-image Churchill, the man now paid by the New York Times to think great thoughts rather than to laugh till he cries mobilizes theater metaphors in his pay-per-view, anti-war opus of this morning, He’s in the Bunker Now.

Rich begins by informing us that President Bush has morphed from Harold Hill in "The Music Man" into Willy Loman from "Death of a Salesman." And we all know what that means.

Rich next employs his knowledge of stagecraft to criticize the set chosen for President Bush's speech this past week: "In the past, they made a fetish of situating their star in telegenic settings, from aircraft carriers to Ellis Island . . . But this time . . . Mr. Bush was banished to the White House library."

Wait a second. Isn't it guys like Rich who have been bashing Bush ever since he turned up on the deck of that ship to proclaim Mission Accomplished? But now that W has opted for more modest settings, that's bad, too? No good W deed goes unpunished -- so long as your starting point is implacable enmity for this president.

Next, Rich rips the president for taking some extra time in developing his new plan for Iraq. Rich goes so far as to count the additional military deaths since election day. Of course, this is another no-win situation. Had the president announced his plan shortly after election day, the Riches of the world would have accused the president of hastily slapping something together for political purposes. And since Rich believes that the plan will "hurl [additional troops] into the hell of Baghdad," by his own logic hasn't the delay actually saved lives?

Finally, the Times columnist lets the new Dem majority off the hook for abdicating any semblance of responsibility on Iraq. Declining to pin the tail on the Dem donkey, he observes that sticking up for their principles "would make them, rather than Mr. Bush, politically vulnerable to blame for losing Iraq."  You might read that as an indictment of Dem inaction, but Rich apparently takes it as a justification.

And so, with one final Broadway allusion, Rich claims: "I have long felt that it will be up to Mr. Bush’s own party to ring down the curtain on his failed policy." Isn't that convenient.

Mark was in Iraq in November. contact him at

Foreign Policy Iraq Congress Military Culture/Society New York Times