What Bush didn't mention
Did anybody else notice the neglected phrase in the president's televised speech last night? "Terror" and "terrorists" and "terrorism" were mentioned about two dozen times, not counting references to "violence," "killers," "assassins" and "torturers." But he uttered "weapons of mass destruction" only once -- strictly in the past tense -- and toward the end he spoke of "terrible weapons" formerly possessed by the Saddam Hussein regime.
Bush literally said nothing about what he and his advisors had insisted was the imminent threat of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons (or even weapons "programs"). Those fearsome munitions aren't even worth a paragraph anymore, at least not until David Kay comes up with some shred of evidence that Saddam's forbidden arsenal existed in the months before the war.
Instead, Bush seemed intent on convincing his listeners that Iraq had somehow sponsored the terrorists who attacked us on Sept. 11, 2001 -- the same old dubious theme that is apparently no less effective for being entirely unproven. Will Saletan of Slate, a supporter of the war, referred to that aspect of Bush's speech today on WNYC radio as "a lie." Saletan was courageous as well as correct to say so.
With his Mideast "road map" abruptly reaching a dead end yesterday, last night wasn't the most auspicious time for Bush to promote the long-term benefits of his war. His $87 billion price tag probably sounded expensive to Americans whose state and local governments are struggling to provide basic services, let alone make the improvements demanded by real "homeland security." And those same beleaguered citizens may also wonder when the "sacrifice" so glibly invoked by Bush will include some of the more fortunate in this country -- like his friends and campaign contributors who have enjoyed the bulk of his budget-breaking tax cuts.
Despite economic uncertainty, declining employment and rising gasoline prices, however, there are a few bargains to be had in the Bush marketplace. For example, the Weekly Standard is offering copies of editor William Kristol's book promoting the war at 30 percent off. I suggest waiting a few more weeks, when policy reverses may convince Kristol that he should pay readers to take them away.
This hectic life (continued)
This evening, I will be signing books at Olsson's downtown in Washington, D.C., 1200 F Street N.W., at 7 p.m. And later tonight, I'll be on the radio with Jim Bohannon, whose show is on the Westwood One network, from 11 p.m. to midnight Eastern. I've been on before with Bohannon, an astute, nonpartisan interviewer who is likely to administer a good grilling. If I remember correctly, he usually takes toll-free listener calls.
[2:30 p.m. PDT, Sept. 8, 2003]