From the Department of Reinvented Reality — heck, let’s just go ahead and call it the Ministry of Truth — comes this revelation in today’s New York Times:
“George W. Bush was standing three feet from his television screen in his cabin at Camp David last weekend, absorbed in every detail of the news from Iraq, when a correspondent came on to report that the president of the United States, according to White House officials, was not glued to the TV. . . .
In the opening days of the conflict. . . Ari Fleischer, the White House press secretary, at first suggested that Mr. Bush was not even watching the enormous blasts on live television of the first bombs thundering down on Baghdad. Mr. Fleischer said later that the president had indeed been watching television. The reality is that the war now dominates the White House and the president’s life.”
Wow. I haven’t seen spin like this since Linda Blair in The Exorcist!
In the debate over how far the war in Iraq has gone astray from the White House’s initial expectations, this 180-degree turn in George W.’s image management is clearly damning proof.
At first, the desire was to maintain the longstanding illusion of a CEO president — “a confident executive who is leaving the management of the war to his generals,” as the New York Times article puts it. But that image only works if the war plan is moving ahead effortlessly.
If the delays and casualties are piling up, then such “confident” detachment comes across as callous indifference, or helplessness. And so the effort has been launched to remake Bush as a hands-on, detail-oriented wartime President. And in keeping with the Orwellian model the administration has adopted as its blueprint for governing, the message is that not only is Bush currently fully engaged and immersed in guiding the war effort, he always has been fully engaged and immersed… even when the administration was explicitly claiming he wasn’t.