Joe Conason's Journal

For Bush, the most damaging comments about the war are coming from members of his own administration.

Published March 31, 2003 5:24PM (EST)

Mindful cannibalism
Stupid, even sickening remarks from college teachers or television correspondents are not exactly unexpected in time of war, but for the White House they surely provide a welcome distraction from more salient issues -- most significantly, the question of who is responsible for the errors that have plagued the coalition forces during the first two weeks of the Iraq expedition. Temporary distractions aside, the most damaging comments are coming not from Nicholas de Genova, a previously obscure idiot, as historian Eric Foner described him; or Peter Arnett, an experienced reporter who has shown remarkably bad judgment. They are coming from anonymous Republican critics of the president and from the president's own spinners.

In the latter category is this Knight-Ridder story that ran on Saturday, which quotes "three senior administration officials" suggesting that Bush's top advisors briefed him inadequately about the potential obstacles to a swift and easy victory over Saddam.

According to one of those unnamed officials, views that dissented from the optimistic pap proffered by the vice president and the defense secretary during the run-up to the war "were not fully or energetically communicated to the president. As a result, almost every assumption the plan's based on looks to be wrong." In other words, it's the fault of Cheney and Rumsfeld, not the trusting Bush.

The same notion of a duped president appears in today's Washington Post, again from unnamed sources "within the Bush administration and the Republican Party." The story by Glenn Kessler and Walter Pincus goes on to describe "a behind-the-scenes effort by former senior Republican government officials and party leaders to convince President Bush that the advice he has received from Vice President Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz -- a powerful triumvirate frequently at odds with Secretary of State Colin L. Powell -- has been wrong and even dangerous to long-term U.S. national interests."

Kessler and Pincus quote a "former GOP appointee" who wonders "whether this President has learned something from this bum advice he has been getting."
[9:27 a.m. PST, March 31, 2003]

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By Salon Staff

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