According to White House spokeswoman Dana Perino, something happened on May 1 that will go down in history as “a trumped-up political stunt that is the height of cynicism.” But no, she wasn’t talking about President Bush’s victory strut on the USS Lincoln four years ago today. Perino was trashing the Democrats for sending Bush the Iraq supplemental funding bill they passed last week, on the fourth anniversary of the president’s humiliating Top Gun appearance in which he declared, “In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed.”
Of course, 3,000 Americans and many more Iraqis have died since the U.S. “prevailed,” but now it’s Democrats who are accused of playing politics with the war. The White House is incompetent about everything except the laying of blame (yes, George Tenet, they made you a scapegoat, but you’ll never become a hero for writing a tell-all book four years too late), and they’ve been trying to blame others for that “Mission Accomplished” photo op since they began taking criticism for it. First they blamed the sailors themselves, insisting they’d worked on their own to hang the “Mission Accomplished” banner. “The ‘Mission Accomplished’ sign, of course, was put up by the members of the USS Abraham Lincoln, saying that their mission was accomplished,” Bush said in October 2003. “I know it was attributed somehow to some ingenious advance man from my staff — they weren’t that ingenious, by the way.” Later it turned out that the White House advance team had produced the banner, but administration officials continued to claim it was at the Navy’s behest.
Banner aside, the whole event was choreographed by Bush operatives for maximum political benefit. As the New York Times’ Elizabeth Bumiller wrote a few weeks later, the Bush team “had choreographed every aspect of the event, even down to the members of the Lincoln crew arrayed in coordinated shirt colors over Mr. Bush’s right shoulder and the ‘Mission Accomplished’ banner placed to perfectly capture the president and the celebratory two words in a single shot. The speech was specifically timed for what image makers call ‘magic hour light,’ which cast a golden glow on Mr. Bush.”
There was no “magic hour light” casting a “golden glow” on Bush when he vetoed the Iraq spending bill a few minutes ago. He can try to depict Democrats as the ones not supporting the troops — but he’s the one vetoing war funding. And after four years of carnage, the American people are too smart to fall for another cynical May 1 stunt.