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Why Oh Why Are We Ruled by This Idiot?

Dan Froomkin watches Tony Snow try to maintain the integrity of the bubble:

Trying to Spin the Truth Away: By Dan Froomkin: Alarmed at a brief dribble of actual un-spun news from inside the White House, spokesman Tony Snow yesterday tried his darndest to discredit it. The dribble emerged courtesy of four scholars invited to talk with President Bush about Iraq on Monday. None of them substantively disagreed with Bush's policies... but they did talk to New York Times reporters afterwards about where the president seemed to be coming from.

As a result, Thom Shanker and Mark Mazzetti wrote in the Times yesterday: "President Bush made clear in a private meeting this week that he was concerned about the lack of progress in Iraq and frustrated that the new Iraqi government -- and the Iraqi people -- had not shown greater public support for the American mission, participants in the meeting said Tuesday. . . ." [T]he president expressed frustration that Iraqis had not come to appreciate the sacrifices the United States had made in Iraq, and was puzzled as to how a recent anti-American rally in support of Hezbollah in Baghdad could draw such a large crowd."

A petulant, dissatisfied president is of course not part of the approved White House narrative on Iraq. As a result, Snow came out swinging at yesterday's press briefing:

I have spoken with the notetaker in the meeting, I was in the meeting, I've talked to others in the meeting and I've talked to all four scholars today, and all, to a person, take exception to a verb or variations of that verb that appear a number of times at the top of the piece, which is that the President is 'frustrated.'... All the participants said that that did not reflect the meeting they attended.

Bush doesn't get frustrated, Snow said. The president believes that

when you're facing a situation, you don't sit around and get frustrated. You figure out how to get the job done. And I've said it many times, and I'll say it because it's true: The president is somebody who's intensely practical about these things and not somebody who sits around and goes, 'Nnnnyoo!'"...

But here's Snow's problem: The New York Times story is entirely believable. Snow may not want to call Bush frustrated -- but it's almost impossible to imagine that the president isn't at least a little displeased that things in Iraq aren't working out exactly how he'd hoped. And furthermore, Bush has -- privately, of course -- made this particular, pouty frustration known before. As columnist Sidney Blumenthal points out in Salon today: "Bush's demand for expressions of gratitude from the Iraqis is not a new one. In his memoir, L. Paul Bremer III, head of the ill-fated Coalition Provisional Authority, records that above all other issues Bush stressed the need for an Iraqi government to declare its thanks."

Peter W. Galbraith has more in his article on Bremer's book for the New York Review of Books: Bremer "had lunch with the President before leaving for Baghdad -- a meeting joined by the Vice President and the national security team -- but no decision seems to have been made on any of the major issues concerning Iraq's future. Instead, Bremer got a blanket grant of authority that he clearly enjoyed exercising. The President's directions seem to have been limited to such slogans as 'we're not going to fail' and 'pace yourself, Jerry.' In Bremer's account, the President was seriously interested in one issue: whether the leaders of the government that followed the CPA would publicly thank the United States. . . .

Bush had only one demand: 'It's important to have someone who's willing to stand up and thank the American people for their sacrifice in liberating Iraq.' According to Bremer, he came back to this single point three times in the same meeting. Similarly, Ghazi al-Yawar, an obscure Sunni Arab businessman, became Bush's candidate for president of Iraq's interim government because, as Bremer reports, Bush had 'been favorably impressed with his open thanks to the Coalition.'