It was a weekend for sequels -- both at the movie box office (where X-Men 3 opened big), and on the political stump, where the GOP trotted out yet another haven't-we-seen-this-before installment of its election-year script, featuring lots of tough dialogue about fighting terrorism.
But while the latest adventures of Wolverine, Storm, Magneto, Rogue, and Mystique added fresh twists and garnered some of the best reviews of the series, the GOP's 2006 sneak peek couldn't have looked more played out.
The yawn-inducing preview was rolled out at the president's Memorial Day weekend speech at West Point. After his grudging concession last week that his brand of "tough talk" had "sent the wrong signal to people" he was right back at it again, reiterating his commitment to pre-emptive strikes and his post-9/11 dictum that there is "no distinction between the terrorists and the countries that harbor them."
Aside from attempting to recast Bush as a 21st-century Harry Truman (see Marty Kaplan take a Ginzu knife to this comparison here), the president's entire address was cobbled together from bits of previous speeches -- a worn-out collection of his War on Terror Greatest Hits. He's becoming more and more like one of those aging rock bands that hasn't had a hit -- or a fresh idea -- in years but keeps on touring, playing all the same old songs. The political equivalent of Def Leppard or Motley Crue.
The presidential playlist included some classics: the Saddam-WMD riff ("a dictator who had pursued and used weapons of mass destruction"), the crowing about thwarting vague "serious al Qaeda terrorist plots," the chest-thumping over driving the Taliban from power (guess he hasn't kept up with the Taliban's comeback tour), and the inevitable 9/11 medley, complete with its interminable drumbeat-to-war solo.
Then it was time to bring out the Zippo lighters for the encore. Quick, get ready to sing along (I know you know the words):
"We will stay on the offense against the terrorists, fighting them abroad so we do not have to face them here at home."
"We will never back down, we will never give in, and we will never accept anything less than complete victory."
Woo-party on, "Dr. Feelgood"! (I mean, Mr. President!)
Of course, there was no mention of the sorry performance of his own Motley Crew. Last week, nearly two years after being unable to name a single mistake during the presidential debates, Bush finally came up with an answer, calling Abu Ghraib "the biggest mistake" America has made in Iraq. But did that mean that he was kicking those most responsible for the policies that led to it -- Don Rumsfeld and Alberto "The Geneva Convention is 'Quaint'" Gonzales -- out of the band? Hell, no! Why should he when the roadies have already taken the fall?
Bush also slowed things down a bit for an unplugged acoustic set of the lofty tunes he first introduced in his second inaugural: "the future belongs to freedom, and we will not rest until the promise of liberty reaches every people and every nation."
But with 66 percent of the public disapproving of the president's handling of Iraq, and the scandal over the coverup of the killings in Haditha threatening to become, in the words of Jack Murtha, "worse than Abu Ghraib," do Karl Rove and the geniuses planning the GOP 2006 strategy really think the public is willing to sacrifice more young American lives to the idea of bringing liberty to "every people in every nation"?
According to the AP, the 861 graduating cadets in the audience reacted to Bush's speech with "loud applause, muffled only by the cadets' white gloves." I think the response of the American people -- a majority of whom now believe the Bush administration "intentionally misled" us into war -- will be far less enthusiastic, muffled by their outrage, disgust, and distrust.
I doubt the moldy oldies are going to play this time around.
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