If Bush isn't "troubled," shouldn't the rest of us be?

The decider says his job is to "absorb and listen to everything that's being said."

By Tim Grieve
Published December 5, 2006 2:22PM (EST)

After sitting down for an interview with George W. Bush Sunday, Fox News' Brit Hume can report that the president is "confident" and "comfortable." "Hes fine, hes in good spirits," Hume told Fox's Neil Cavuto on the air Monday afternoon. " Now, look, Neil, you and I have been around a long time, and you can smell this embattled, troubled quality on a politician at 100 yards. Its not there."

We're having a hard time seeing how you don't call Bush "embattled" just now. His party just lost big during midterm elections; his approval ratings are stuck in the 30s; his nominee for the job of ambassador to the United Nations just gave up any hope of confirmation; and the war of choice Bush started in Iraq has now claimed the lives of 2,906 American soldiers.

So "embattled"? Yeah, Bush fits that description. "Troubled"? We'll have to take Hume's word for it. But let's just say this: If Bush isn't feeling "troubled" -- if he really feels, as Hume said, that the "burden of the office is not heavy, it's light" -- then what the hell is going on here, exactly? More to the point, does the president even know?

Bush brushed away a question about "civil war" in Iraq by claiming that "most of the country outside of the Baghdad area is relatively peaceful," that there's a "kind of normalcy of life outside of the Baghdad area." Perhaps the president should consult that Marine intelligence report that was leaked to the press last month -- the one that described Iraq's Anbar province as a place where Sunnis are "embroiled in a daily fight for survival" and terrified of "pogroms" by the Shiite majority, and that said that the U.S. can't win a military victory there anymore.

Maybe Bush has seen the memo but just forgot it. After all, Bush told Hume that he has been getting "a lot of advice documents," and that he's going to consider each and every one of them before he makes any decisions about Iraq. Bush says that he'll be looking forward to the Baker group's recommendations, to whatever Congress has to say on the matter, to what military leaders and people in Iraq have to offer. "My attitude is I ought to absorb and listen to everything that's being said, because I'm not satisfied with the progress being made in Iraq," Bush said.

We suppose we should be grateful that the "decider" is doing some listening -- would that he had exercised this sort of slow caution before the war started -- but it would be good if he got to doing some decidin' soon, too. Bush now claims that Rumsfeld has been "signaling throughout the fall that perhaps we needed a fresh approach." A lot of people have been "signaling" as much for a lot longer than that, and a whole lot of U.S. troops have died while we've waited for the president to get the message. "One thing about Don Rumsfeld," Bush said, "is he understood mistakes." Maybe so, but do you?

Tim Grieve

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

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