Listening to the President's press conference on Wednesday morning, I was struck by the following exchange:
REPORTER: As you know, a growing number of troops are on their second, third or fourth tour in Iraq. There have been a growing number of reports about declining morale among fighting men. I spoke personally to an infantry commander -- tough guy, patriot -- who says more and more of the troops are asking, questioning what they're doing here. Does this come as a surprise to you? Are you aware of this? Is it a minority opinion, is it a growing opinion, and does it concern you?
THE PRESIDENT: What I hear from commanders is that the place where there is concern is with the family members; that our troops, who have volunteered to serve the country, are willing to go into combat multiple times, but that the concern is with the people on the home front. And I can understand that... I haven't heard deep concern about the morale of the troops in Iraq.
The words which struck me were "What I hear", because we're notoriously dealing with a president who only hears what he wants to hear, and anyone who says or thinks anything contrary to his beliefs is whisked away to the cornfield.
He's the Decider, and he's already decided how he's going to decide.
Never mind what the Iraq Study Group advises. Or what the National Intelligence Estimate says. Or what suggestions Chuck Hagel might have. And certainly don't listen to anything a Democrat might propose.
His refusal to consider -- or often even acknowledge -- ideas other than those to which he so stubbornly clings was vividly demonstrated earlier in the press conference when he said in regard to Iraq:
"I considered several options -- one, doing nothing, and that if you don't believe the situation was acceptable, then you should do something."
I'm not sure I've heard anyone offer the "Let's do nothing" plan (although I believe that was the official motto of the last session of Congress). With Bush, it's not "My way or the highway," because to him, there IS no highway.
But it was those three words, "What I hear", which stood out most starkly to me. They immediately reminded me of the classic panel from Gary Larson's "The Far Side", depicting what we say to dogs vs. what they hear.
And so, with apologies to and deep appreciation of Mr. Larson, I'd like to present my own version. Call it "The Far Right Side":