This just in: Bush listens

The president makes a show of taking advice on Iraq.

Published January 5, 2006 5:02PM (EST)

Josh Marshall caught a "well, duh" headline on the Washington Post's Web site the other day: "DHS To Base Grants on Risk." As Marshall put it, the idea that homeland security money should be directed to where it's actually needed ought to be about as novel as the notion that firefighters might respond first to buildings that are, you know, burning. Of course, the world of Washington doesn't always work in ways that a mere mortal might expect. Since 9/11, homeland security money has gone to all sorts of places -- hello, Wyoming! -- that probably aren't on any short lists floating around the caves of Pakistan.

The Department of Homeland Security is now fixing to remedy that with a new plan aimed at getting money to the parts of the country where terrorists seem most likely to attack. But just as we digest that news, along comes another amazing-but-true headline from the World Wide Web: "Bush Listens to Suggestions on Iraq."

Well, Katy bar the door.

Just as we'd like to think that homeland security grants might be going to places where they're needed, we'd like to feel confident that the president of the United States listens all the time to suggestions about a war that has claimed nearly 2,200 American lives and killed untold thousands of Iraqis. The reality, of course, is that he doesn't. The ever-shrinking nature of the president's bubble has been well documented. It seems pretty clear that the only advice the president is getting on Iraq comes from the same folks who got the country into the war there in the first place.

The White House knows that the Bush bubble -- or, more accurately, the image of it -- has to be burst. Although the president's approval ratings have ticked up ever so slightly from their lows of last year, the White House seems to understand that the president needs to do a better job of making it clear that he feels our pain. He couldn't bring himself to meet with Cindy Sheehan over the summer -- he said he had a life to live -- but he was quick out of the box this week to express his sympathies for the common folk who lost family members in that mine disaster in West Virginia.

And this morning, the president made a big made-for-TV show of meeting with a collection of former secretaries of state and defense to talk about the war in Iraq. After the session was over, Bush thanked everyone for coming and said that he took their advice "to heart." Then he articulated his strategy for Iraq, exactly the same strategy that he has been articulating all along. We wouldn't expect this president -- or any president -- to change his ways on a matter of war in the course a single meeting. But coming out of his meeting with Madeleine Albright and Robert McNamara and Colin Powell and all the rest, Bush gave no hint that their words had had any effect on him at all. Bush listened to suggestions, all right. Whether he heard them is another question entirely.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

MORE FROM Tim Grieve

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

George W. Bush Iraq Iraq War Middle East War Room