(HOST) Commentator Bill Seamans reflects on President Bush, prime time and the status of the war in Iraq.
(SEAMANS) The White House is “disconnected from reality – things aren’t getting better – they’re getting worse.” That’s what Republican Senator Chuck Hagel said the other day. And on the Democratic side, Senator Joe Biden has used a lot of TV face time calling upon President Bush to “level with the American people.”
They were reacting to the vibes they were getting from their constituencies as reflected in the latest polls: that we the people were losing patience with President Bush’s repeated calls for “patience” with how he’s handling the Iraq war. Frank Rich in The New York Times put it succinctly when he wrote that the Amer- ican public is suffering from “an overload of fake reality.”
The question this morning is whether President Bush in his speech last night really did level with the American people and whether he lightened our overload of fake reality.
It would seem to this observer that President Bush was driven to his prime time message by the reality that the war is finally reach- ing the public beyond the families of our service persons as gaso- line prices climb and the casualty toll continues rising, despite the Bushite claims of progress in Iraq. The people are asking, “What is progress, Mr. President? If you are not leveling with us now, how can we believe what you say in the future?”
What is different about this situation is that the public’s skepticism does not necessarily rise from the much maligned mainstream news media, but from the statements of the Bushites themselves. The reason Bush gave for launching the war was the alleged threat from Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction, which our President has morphed into a fight for democracy in Iraq and a war against global terrorism.
And, recently, we heard Vice President Cheney say “the insurgency is in the last throes.” Then our top Middle East com- mander Gen. John Abizaid told a Congressional hearing that the insurgency had not diminished – that it was as strong as it was six months ago. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld said on TV talk shows Sunday that the critics were, in his words, “Flat wrong – we are not losing in Iraq.”
Now these seeming contradictions rise from public statements made by President Bush, himself, and his top officials – not from impressions created by news media reports. So what, the public asks, are we to believe in the future?
The Bush regime has been called the most secretive Presidency in modern political history. And secrecy eventually reaches a point of diminishing returns – like forcing the President to go on national television to explain to a confused public what he is doing. Wheth- er President Bush succeeded last night rests in the mind of the beholder, not in the pen of the pundit.
This is Bill Seamans.
Bill Seamans is a former correspondent and bureau chief for ABC News in the Middle East. He spoke from our studio in Norwich.