I arrived home late last evening after the annual 24 hours of Yom Kippur fasting broken by a lovely dinner with family. I guess by reflex I flicked on the TV which happened to be tuned to C-Span. I must confess that what was before my eyes looked so surreal that it made me wonder if the food deprivation had affected by brain. Alas, it had not. There was the President of the United States standing standing stiffly before a lectern facing what seemed like a large picture frame in which was the image of 10 uniformed military personnel stacked up in three rows like cardboard props. It was purported to be a spontaneous “video conference” between the commander-in-chief and his troops on the ground in Iraq. Among the assembled were a token woman and a token Iraqi soldier. Isn’t this a great country?
George Bush and his handlers have made these stage sets their signature. The same people who brought us embedded war correspondents, love to use “ordinary citizens” and if at all possible people in uniform as live scenery behind the great leader. The granddaddy of all such stage sets was the famous Mission Accomplished aircraft carrier landing. But there was something particularly disturbing about this performance. And performance it was. One didn’t have to be a genus to detect how stilted were the responses from this or that service person to the President’s self serving statement/questions. The inelegance of W’s prose continues to make one want to cry or scream – painful! The Pentagon has admitted staging the event including reviewing the questions and who would answer them. They didn’t say that the answers were rehearsed, but then I hadn’t spent the day at services either.
George W. Bush’s polls continue to slide (38% approval as of yesterday), but there is no doubt that our troops on the ground, the individuals fighting his elective war, probably would poll in the very high 90%, very high. Americans, regardless of their point of view, support and worry about our precious young people in uniform. A premise of the President’s show was that by not supporting him, we don’t support them which is utter and nonsense and he knows it. What is so disturbing, not as disturbing as to sending them into battle on a lie, but in its own way just as criminal is using these people for his own political purposes. These are military in uniform essentially (yes, sir Mr. President) forced to put on a show, thinly veiled as supportive of the Iraq vote tomorrow, but clearly aimed at polishing Bush’s tarnished image. It is a manipulation of the worst kind. True to form, the one young lady officer, was selected so that she could tell the President she witnessed his greatness in New York on 911. He remembered her, of course – and I didn’t attend services on Yom Kippur. Aren’t you getting a little sick of hearing the slogan 9/11 come up in every utterance of this administration? Oh yes, “make sure you get your flu shot this year, we’ve learned on 9/11 how important that is” or “Harriet is prepared for lifetime service on the Supreme Court because she was at the White House on 9/11”. Ugh.
The days ahead should be interesting. One can’t but hope that the Iraqis will make progress in establishing their own, really their own, government. Would that one could be optimistic that this landmark will bring any more of a solution or peace than did the last dozen watershed "this will do it" events. Mr. Fitzgerald may have some things to say, this time about stage set directors rather than reporters. Who knows, but for the moment I haven’t recovered from late night TV. I should have gone right to sleep.