Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Shootout at credibility gap

One big reason why the Bush administration is having serious credibility problems - a new national poll reports that 55 percent of the people view President Bush as untrustworthy - is because its leaders keep contradicting each other on Iraq.
You have the happy talkers, like Bush ("we're making progress," he said again last week) and Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Peter Pace (the war in Iraq is "going very, very well, from everything you look at"). But you also have the gloom and doomers, like Bush's ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, who now declares in a newspaper interview that the toppling of Saddam Hussein opened "a Pandora's box" of sectarian and ethnic tensions and violence.
Strangely, I don't recall, back in the prewar phase, that anybody in the administration was warning of a Pandora's box being opened.
Anyway, Bush also told an ABC reporter last week, "I don't buy your premise that there's going to be civil war." (Actually, that wasn't her premise, she was merely asking a what-if question, but never mind.) But whereas Bush was basically dismissing any talk of civil war, his own ambassador is now talking up that possibility.
The "potential is there," said Khalizad, and if another major incident occurs, equivalent to the bombing two weeks ago of a Shiite Muslim shrine, then "Iraq is really vulnerable to it at this time, in my judgment."
It's a sign of trouble when the Bush team's vaunted message discipline falters so blatantly.
And I'll stop here with a question:
A new argument these days, among many Bush supporters, is that anyone in the press who raises the possibility of civil war must, by definition, be rooting for civil war. Would they suggest that Khalizad shares that sentiment?