EVERYTHING IS BROKEN. Paging through the headlines this morning, it struck me that, as never before, everything is falling apart for George W. Bush, and it's happening in a very ugly, public way. That doesn't mean he's going to lose - he should, of course, although we all know that's not how things necessarily work. But it seems that all at once, nearly four years of lies, exaggerations, and bullying are finally catching up with him.
Just look around. His chief weapons inspector, Charles Duelfer, now acknowledges that Saddam Hussein had dismantled his WMD programs in the early 1990s. Loyalist that he is, Duelfer prattled on yesterday about how Saddam really, really wanted weapons of mass destruction, as though that were something we didn't know. Guess what? So does Burma, I'm sure.
Earlier this week, as we know, Bush's former guy in Iraq, Paul Bremer, said in a speech that the White House had never sent enough troops to Iraq to keep the peace. Again, this is another Bush loyalist, a man who immediately tried to distance himself from his own remarks as soon as he realized they were not off the record, as he had presumed. Looks like he can forget about being secretary of state if Bush is elected to a second term.
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has been spinning all week to dissociate himself from remarks that he'd seen no "strong, hard evidence" that Saddam Hussein had ties to Al Qaeda. Again, as with Duelfer and Bremer: not a critic, but rather someone so loyal to Bush that he's clearly mortified over his momentary outburst of candor.
At Tuesday night's vice-presidential debate, moderator Gwen Ifill asked John Edwards if Saddam would still be in power if he and John Kerry had been in office. Edwards, sensing trouble, evaded the question. That was probably smart.
But Edwards certainly wouldn't have harmed himself with Media Log if he had spelled out explicitly the clear implications of Kerry's approach to Iraq:
You know, Gwen, maybe Saddam would be still in power. At the time that Bush went to war with Iraq, there were UN weapons inspectors on the ground, and Saddam was boxed in by economic sanctions and no-fly zones in the north and south of his country. If the inspectors had found weapons, or had presented convincing evidence that Saddam was trying to hide something, then I'm confident we could have built a real alliance and gone to war to overthrow him. But if not, then yes, Saddam Hussein would probably still be in power today. What of it?
An impolitic answer? Sure. But 1066 Americans would still be alive today (this count is as of Tuesday), not to mention other coalition forces and many thousands of Iraqis. And the United States would be not one bit less safe.
Meanwhile, Bush is getting desperate. Read how the White House hoodwinked CNN and MSNBC into televising his latest attack speech yesterday, under the guise of its being a major presidential address.
NEW IN THIS WEEK'S PHOENIX. The latest on WBUR Radio (90.9 FM) and its embattled general manager, Jane Christo, whose possible departure is now the subject of speculation. Also, unpacking those pro-Bush Gallup polls, and liberal radio comes (almost) to Boston.