March 8, 2003
By Mike McArdle
a sure sign that the nation will be going to war with Iraq
in the very near future the little man who purports to be
America’s leader strode to a podium Thursday night to answer
actual questions from actual members of the press. Usually
the little man appears only before hand picked audiences -
businessmen, religious broadcasters, conservative think tanks.
Normally his handlers create him an attractive background
to stand in front of for his speeches with catch phrases like
“corporate responsibility” to delineate the theme of the speech
for that evenings news broadcasts. When he appears before
a military audience they dress the little man in a flight
jacket to make him look like one of the troops. One would
think he had similar jacket hanging untouched in his closet
for a year and a half when he disappeared from his National
But the audience this evening was not as controllable although
they certainly gave it their best shot. The contentious Helen
Thomas who has already relegated the little man to 43rd place
among the 43 American Presidents was moved from her usual
spot in the front to the third row and left off the list of
those to be called on during questioning. Helen has an annoying
habit of bringing up uncomfortable subjects like the inevitable
deaths of innocent people that the little man's war is going
to cause. We can’t have that.
Those who were permitted to ask questions were selected ahead
of time by Presidential handlers who undoubtedly weighed the
advantages of calling on each and disadvantages of not
calling on them.
The questions were all different but the answers to all the
questions were canned. It didn’t seem to matter what the subject
matter was. He simply fished for the catch phrases he’d memorized
even if it meant lapsing into interminable periods of silence.
If the administration has been sharing intelligence with
allies why have they come to different conclusions about the
need for war ?
Threat. Mass destruction. September 11. Disarm.
Recent demonstrations suggest that the U.S. is a threat to
Some people demonstrate against free trade. Free trade’s
good. Disarm. UN resolution.
The financial cost of the war ?
September 11. Threat. Mass destruction. The cost in dollars
? “Well, we'll let you know here pretty soon.”
By my count there were 6 references to the number of years
since the Gulf War, 10 references to weapons of “mass destruction,”
10 to September 11, and a whopping 53 uses of the word “disarm”
or one of its variations.
When asked about whether capturing or killing Saddam Hussein
was a condition for success in the war the little man tried
to squeeze in his obligatory “liberator” answer.
“There are something like 55,000 oil-for-food distribution
points in Iraq. We know where they are. We fully intend to
make sure that there -- got ample food. We know where the
hospitals are. Want to make sure they got ample medical supplies.”
Great. So you people who manage to survive the “shock and
awe” onslaught of bombs, don’t worry. If the war ends with
you still alive the little man has a copy of the Baghdad Yellow
pages and well, the good stuff will get there, er, ah, when
it gets there.
His cluelessness was positively frightening and his demeanor
was insulting. On maybe the last occasion on which he would
try to explain to those he allegedly serves why this war is
necessary and why now he could only drone on in an absurd
monotone that suggested sedation or alcohol use or simply
a desire to dispense with the niceties of having to explain
himself to the rest of us. He called out the name of the next
questioner so quickly that it often sounded like the last
words of his answer to the previous question. He wanted out
of there as quickly as possible.
The pundits could, at best, say that Bush was “somber” in
view of the gravity of the occasion. Somber. Terrific. In
deference to the fact that the President is about to send
thousands of people to their deaths needlessly he’s decided
to forego his usual attempts to sound like Dirty Harry Callahan.
I guess that passes for “rising to the occasion”.
Nobody wants to say, and I’m sure that nobody wants to believe,
that the President is a mindless zombie ready to hurl the
world into a possible planet-wide cataclysm with next to no
thought and little understanding of the consequences but maybe
somebody had better say something. We should all hope that
he was drunk or sedated because if he wasn’t then the person
who has his finger on the nuke-yoo-lar trigger is a simple-minded
fool with no understanding of his role on the world stage
or the power over life and death that is at his command.
And that’s the biggest threat we all face.