In preparing us for Gen. David Petraeus' inevitable glass-half-full September assessment, the administration has been putting a Bushian spin on the classic Marx Brothers line "Who you gonna believe, me or your own eyes?"
For Bush and his minions, the question to the American people has become: Who you gonna believe, Petraeus or the facts -- and the bodies piling up -- on the ground?
Over the last four years, Bush has told us again and again and again that he believes "strongly that politicians in Washington shouldn't be telling generals how to do their job" -- and then has done precisely that. It would be comical -- if the consequences weren't so tragic.
And he's doing it again, urging us to trust the experts come September. "Look, you want politicians making those decisions, or do you want commanders on the ground making the decisions?... I would trust David Petraeus to make an assessment and a recommendation a lot better than people in the United States Congress."
But the backyard of the White House is littered with the dead careers of military experts the president refused to listen to, starting with Gen. Shinseki, who warned that we were heading into Iraq with too few boots on the ground, and continuing through Gen. Casey, who had the full trust of the president -- until he became an advocate of withdrawal and a naysayer of the surge.
"What I want to hear from you is how we're going to win, not how we're going to leave," the president told his military experts on the cusp of announcing his troop escalation strategy in January -- and on the cusp of getting rid of Gen. Casey and his inconvenient expert opinions.
Bush is so gung-ho about listening to Gen. Petraeus not because he is an expert but because he is an expert who agrees with Bush.
Indeed, he is an expert who agrees with Bush even though it means disregarding his own expertise -- ie the Army's newly-revised counter-insurgency field manual which he co-authored and, according to which, far more troops are needed for the surge to succeed than he's been given.
Yet he is shamefully going along with the White House, claiming that he can make the surge work with the inadequate resources at his disposal. And if he stops going along, there is, in the Bush career burial yard, a hole in the ground with his name on it.
I'm sorry, but if that's the kind of gun-to-the-head expertise the president wants us to put our trust in, I'd rather believe my own eyes. That's something very important to keep in mind during through the dog days of summer as Bush sets the table for September.