The last time we checked, the United States Department of Agriculture didn't have a lot to do with prosecuting the war in Iraq. But if you head out to hear any USDA officials speak in the next few weeks, you can expect to hear some words about the president's plan for victory there.
As the Washington Post's Al Kamen reports today, USDA speechwriter Heather Vaughn sent an e-mail message to dozens of USDA employees last week with orders that they include positive words about Iraq in any speeches they might give. "The president has requested that all members of his cabinet and sub-cabinet incorporate message points on the Global War on Terror into speeches, including specific examples of what each agency is doing to aid the reconstruction of Iraq," the message said.
Vaughn suggested that speakers work Iraq into transitions in their speeches -- "Before I get to discussing the rutabaga harvest, let me say a few words about those WMD" -- or that they entice their audiences with crop-specific examples: "The Iraqis have also discussed specific products, like tomatoes, which they are anxious to export into the world community."
We made up the quote about the rutabaga.
The one about tomatoes is real.
It's all a little ridiculous, except maybe at the White House, where they're apparently keeping close tabs on who says what. Vaughn's message said that USDA officials should send "a weekly email summarizing the event, date and location of each speech incorporating the attached language" to the department's director of speechwriting, who will in turn forward a compilation to the White House.