The Corner

Bush The Optimistic Liar

I understand why some people think Bush is being too rosy in his pronouncements about Iraq, although I think the statements from the Kerry campaign ridiculing Allawi go way too far. But one point I almost never hear Bush’s critics in the press acknowledge even rhetorically is that Bush might have a motive other than politics for being upbeat about Iraq. If Alan Greenspan were overheard saying the economy is tanking, even as a joke, it would have huge consequences. Well, if Bush gives a grim, downbeat or pessimistic accounting of the situation in Iraq it would be instantaneously read as a signal of defeatism, imminent withdrawal or a pulling back of commitment. The fact that the press, at home and abroad, would take any inch offered by Bush and stretch into a mile is cannot be disputed. I am not saying that Bush should lie to the American people about the situation there and I’m not saying that critics don’t raise a fair objection when they want to hear more straight talk. But can’t they at least concede the point that if Bush gave the American people the sort of accounting the sourpusses want to hear — even if it were true — it would almost surely become a self-fulfilling prophecy?

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Illegal leaks of classified information should be treated as a serious offense. But they would be easier to prevent if less information were classified.