Monday, November 1
Decision 2004: Fear Fatigue vs. Sheer Fatigue
Frank Rich, New York Times, November 1, 2004
... No president has worked harder than George W. Bush to tell his story as a spectacle, much of it fictional, to rivet his constituents while casting himself in an unfailingly heroic light.
Yet this particular movie may have gone on too long and have too many plot holes. It may have been too clever by half.
It may have given Mr. Kerry just the opening he needs to win.
As Mr. Bush said of the war to Matt Lauer in a rare moment of candor, quickly rescinded, "I don't think you can win it."
Especially if you've so bought into the myth of your own invulnerable star power that you failed to secure nearly 380 tons of explosives destined to blow up American troops.
The president hoped to give the tragedy of 9/11 a speedy happy ending by laying out a simple war pitting God's anointed against the evildoers, then by portraying Iraq as the 'central front' in that war, then by staging a stirring victory celebration weeks after that central battle began. But when our major combat operations turned out not to be 'over,' this purported final reel was seen as the one thing the American public hates even more than an unhappy ending - a false one.
The triumphalist cinema that had led up to it, culminating in the toppling of the Saddam statue, was, like 'Mission Accomplished' itself, too slick. It whetted our appetite for sequels.
But what came instead were pictures by upstart independent filmmakers hawking an alternative scenario to 'Shock and Awe': the charred corpses of civilian contractors strung up in Fallujah, the beheading of Nick Berg, the tableaux vivants of Abu Ghraib, the neat rows of 49 slaughtered Iraqi recruits decomposing in the sun.
The scenes the administration created to counter them all backfired. A surprise Thanksgiving visit by the president to the troops turned out to feature a 'show' turkey supplied by Halliburton.
An elaborately staged presidential D-Day address in Normandy was upended by the death of the war-winning president Mr. Bush's handlers hoped to clone, Ronald Reagan.
The handover of sovereignty was marred by the shot of Paul Bremer re-enacting the fall of Saigon by dashing to a helicopter to flee.
There hasn't been an unalloyed feel-good video out of Iraq since the capture of Saddam.
That was before last Christmas.