The Corner

Condi Live

Look. We have seen this move before. Everybody rages that Bush is doing the wrong thing, he has to do X. Senator Daschle says he has to do X.

Republicans say he has to do X. The whole press says he is stupid for not doing X. Still, Bush refuses. And refuses. And refuses. Then, after everybody else has spoken, Bush suddenly says, O.K., we’ll do X. Then, with the attention of the whole world upon him, and with everybody committed to X, he steps forward and goes right through the hole the attackers opened up for him. He does X, and knocks them dead.

In football, this play is called the mousetrap. The guard pulls out and moves toward the end, and the opposing players rush in on the attack. Suddenly the ball is handed off to a runner heading right for the spot the attackers had just vacated.

In this case, Condi Rice is the runner, and now she will have a chance to say exactly what she has wanted to say for two weeks, exactly what she has been saying, but now with everybody’s attention, and the eyes of the whole stadium–and the entire television audience–upon her. And hers will be the last word.

And guys like Richard Clarke, who led the charge through the open whole, will be lying on their backs, flattened, or else out of position, as she roars right through where they should have been, had they held back their attack.

Bush ran this play in the summer of 2002, when everybody said his administration was confused, since he and Cheney seemed to be speaking about the need to act, and Colin Powell seemed to be speaking about more diplomacy, and everybody said, the President cannot act, he MUST bring the issue before Congress, he must, he must. Oh, we really don’t need to, Cheney would say. He must, he must. No, we really don’t need to do, the press secretary would say, there are all these precedents. He must, he must. He has all the authority he needs, Andrew Card would say. He must, he must, the NYT would editorialize. The weeks passed. The President was getting beaten up. His polls were falling. He must, he must. Don’t need to. And then it was almost autumn, the election season. Suddenly, the President says, you know, I will testify. And he does. And the Congress stops in its tracks. And the country supports him. And the vote is overwhelmingly in his favor.

This is the President’s favorite play. When everybody says he is wrong–I mean, everybody–he finally shrugs, and says, OK. Then he does exactly what he intended to do anyway, but now by totally popular demand, and with everybody paying attention.

I have no idea what made the President decide to send Condi to testify this time. But I have seen this move too often to believe it is not a designed play. If it is not, well, it looks like the old game plan, and in any case it has again worked like a charm.


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