Saturday, January 07, 2006

Reach Out and Touch No One

By Maureen Dowd from The New York Times
Doing the math, you've got to figure that the 12 wise men and one wise woman had about 30 seconds apiece to say their piece to the president about Iraq, where vicious assaults this week have killed almost 200 and raised U.S. troop fatalities to at least 2,189.

It must have been like a performance by the Reduced Shakespeare Company, which boils down the great plays and books to their essence. Proust is "I like cookies." Othello raps that he left Desdemona "all alona, didn't telephona." "The Iliad" and "The Odyssey" condense into "The Idiodity." "Henry V" is "A king's gotta do what a king's gotta do," and "Antony and Cleopatra" is "Never get involved in Middle Eastern affairs."

Beyond taking a class picture ringed around Mr. Bush's bizarrely empty desk - a mesmerizing blend of "Sunset Boulevard," "The Last Supper" and a "Sopranos" ad - the former secretaries of state and defense had to make the most of their brief colloquy with W.

The spectral Robert McNamara might have enlightened on Vietnam: "Didn't understand the culture. Misjudged the opposition. Didn't know when to get out." If he was a fast talker, he could have added: "It's the dominoes. If Iraq falls, then Syria falls, then Lebanon falls, and before you know it, all of Southeast Asia - I mean, the Middle East - will fall."

Melvin Laird only needed to add: "Ditto."

Al Haig's summation would have been a cinch: "I resign. I'm in charge here. I resign - again."

Instead of his good-soldier silence, Colin Powell could have redeemed himself with four words: "I should have resigned."

Madeleine Albright might have succinctly imparted some wisdom from Somalia and Rwanda: "Didn't understand the culture. Misjudged the threat. Didn't know when to get in."

James Baker, Svengali and Sphinx, must have been thinking: "I told your dad not to let you in here. I could tell you how to get of Iraq in 10 minutes, but you're too under the sway of that nutball Cheney to listen."

George Shultz only needed to say: "I have a tiger tattooed on my fanny," and Lawrence Eagleburger could have abridged his thoughts to "I need a smoke. Bad."

It may seem disturbing at first, that with several hundreds of years' worth of foreign policy at his elbows, and a bloody, thorny mess in Iraq, Mr. Bush would devote mere moments to letting some fresh air into his House of Pain.

Sure, he has A.D.D. But he just spent six straight days mountain-biking and brush clearing in Crawford. He couldn't devote 60 minutes to getting our kids home rather than just a few for a "Message: I Care" photo-op faking sincerity?

"We all went into the bubble and came out," one of the wise men noted.

Mr. Eagleburger explained their role as props, saying it was hard to volubly express yourself with a president. "There was some criticism, but it was basically 'You haven't talked to the American people enough.' " Lighting a cigarette on the way out - he'd thrown one in the bushes on the way in - he added the world-weary coda: "We're all has-beens anyway."

Mr. Eagleburger knows the truth. If W. had wanted to really reach out, rather than just pretend to reach out so that his poll numbers would go up, he would have sought advice outside his warped inner circle long ago - including from his own father.

Timed out: Go here to read the complete Article:fbihop


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