On Tuesday, my father sent me an email after he noticed the juxtaposition of two stories on the news page of his web provider, Comcast. The headlines were --
2 Suicide Bombers Kill 93 in Iraq
Bush: U.S., Iraqi Forces Making Progress
"That's sure some fine way of making progress!" he noted.
Well, personally, I thought he was being terribly cynical, and I told him so, explaining that the President didn't say they were making "fast" progress. Or good progress. Or what kind of progress. So, in fact, the President was correct, and it was good news after all.
And it hit me that that's quite an impressive ability, to be able to turn 93 deaths into positive news.
And that's when it hit me again that this is an rare, impressive talent the White House has used over and over. I was absolutely floored. What a truly remarkable, valuable skill to have: at the moment when any bad news rams into you (indeed, not just "bad news," but truly mindnumbingly horrible news), that you're not only not run over by it, but that you can repeatedly turn it into Actual Good News without skipping a beat.
The Iraq War is going well.
There's no global warming.
Heck of a job, Brownie
Harry Whittington apologizes for getting in the way of Dick Cheney's buckshot.
George Tennant is given the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Conservative Democrats helping win the House and Senate is a victory for Republicans.
The President has earned political capital.
Lewis Libby's conviction doesn't impact on the White House
It's all like the famous scene from the movie, "Jumbo." Jimmy Durante is sneaking a massive elephant out of the circus, when a guard stops him and demands, "Where are you going with that elephant?!" As the gigantic creature looms up inches behind him, Durante replies, his face the picture of innocence, "What elephant?"
There has been a giant elephant looming behind the Bush Administration for six years, and the best they can come up with is the same answer - "What elephant?" - not ever realizing that pleading ignorance doesn't make the elephant disappear.
(That the G.O.P mascot is an elephant only shows that God has a sense of whimsy.)
Actually, it's even more than this. Because when I read all the gumfummery coming from right-wing pseudo-experts trying to explain away the Libby conviction as A Good Thing, it hit me once more what it was. (Side note: I've been getting hit so often lately that I'm beginning to understand how Harry Whittington felt. But - no apologies!!)
Here's what I realized:
The Bush Administration is Chicken Little in Reverse. The worst imaginable disasters can crush them, and they'll run around yelling how good it is to be caught in the middle of a tsunami that's surrounded by fire as an earthquake collapses the ground underneath a village wiping it out. ("Natural disasters are part of nature, and nature is good and important to life, so we are pleased that our environmental policies have helped life progress.")
The sky could actually be falling, and George Bush and his troupe of Administration Apologists would race around crying out, "The sky isn't falling! The sky isn't falling!"
As water rushes over the top of the levees, "The sky isn't falling," as bombs destroy villages and lives, "The sky isn't falling," as polar icecaps melt and polar bears drown, "The sky isn't falling," as the assistant to the Vice President of the United States is convicted of obstructing justice, "The sky isn't falling."
The problem with being Chicken Little in reverse is the exact same problem as being Chicken Little period, except that you're going backwards - after a while, people catch on and stop believing anything you say. Anything. The President, Administration, Republicans in Congress, right-wing pundits can all explain how the conviction of Lewis Libby, who worked more closely with Vice President Dick Cheney than anyone in America and received handwritten memos from him on Valerie Plame, doesn't mean anything bad for the Vice President or the Administration, that it's even good because it supposedly shows no one else was involved, and it was a bad jury anyway, and...and...and - and even if they somehow can convince themselves of this hallucination, that's as far as it will go. Because people get it. People have more common sense than that. Rocks have more common sense than that. People can actually grasp basic concepts..
And this is just one more basic concept about this Administration that people grasp. When you have 70 percent of the American public saying this war is bad - and the President says "U.S. and Iraqi forces are making progress" - people have long since grasped the truth. Two suicide bombers killing 93 people is not good.
And the tragedy (okay, one of the tragedies) of being Chicken Little in Reverse is that when the next real, serious, important event comes along, and the President opens his mouth, no one will believe him. Because when he squeaked through in 2004, winning by the smallest margin in history for a President up for re-election during a war, he spent all that vaunted political capital.
Eighteen cents just doesn't go as far these days as it used to.