Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Iraq victory: outlook cloudy

Don't bother asking again later

It was highly appropriate (and certainly not an accident) that the president received the Iraq war funding bill on the fourth anniversary of his “Mission Accomplished” publicity stunt. If George W. Bush were capable of feeling embarrassment, recollections of that macho strut down the runway would bring a flush of red to his cheeks. Don't worry: That's not going to happen.

Crystal balls are notorious unreliable, but the Bush administration seems to be wrong about everything. I think it's a consequence of making decisions based on ideology rather than information. Although facts may be stubborn things, one derives enormous freedom from simply ignoring them. Bush and his handlers and enablers and supporters all cling to a weird faith-based conviction that they can do or say anything and get away with it. To be fair, they did get to enjoy a few years where that appeared to be true. Certainly it is true no longer.

One of my favorite examples of right-wing inanity is KSFO's Melanie Morgan, who earlier this week trotted out her own special mix of vacuous political savvy. On Monday, the eve of “Mission Accomplished” Day, Morgan shared with her listening audience a non-prediction that the 2008 presidential nominees would be Al Gore for the Democrats and Fred Thompson for the Republicans. Wallowing in prospective schadenfreude, she chortled that the current gaggle of presidential candidates would all suffer disappointment at the hands of candidates who were not even declared contenders. Morgan finds it amusing when people's hopes are dashed in cruel ways.

I did say that Morgan offered her insight as a “non-prediction.” That's right. She declared her forecast for 2008 and then immediately disavowed it. Morgan did so by qualifying her statement to the point of meaninglessness. “As of today,” she observed, Gore and Thompson would be the major party nominees. Golly, Melanie, thanks! Just how valuable is such a forecast for the future? I'm sure she was just trying to be careful, of course, providing herself with some cover. In effect, though, she was merely saying something like “At this moment, I know the future, but it will probably be something different because something could change.” Like I said: a non-prediction.

It is too easy to pillory Morgan for her vapid political commentary, so let's consider another aspect of her prognostication skills. Remember last year when she castigated the mainstream media for not telling everyone the news that we were winning in Iraq? Morgan based her analysis on a short string of consecutive months of lower casualties—and stretched that string by counting a month that was not yet complete. As I noted in my comment on Morgan's analytical incompetence (or deliberate misrepresentation), the actual body count in August 2006 broke the string and put paid to her nonsensical spin. I assume that she was particularly unhappy that she had missed the “victory” of March 2006, when the U.S. deaths fell to 31 (only one a day!), so she had to make do with the partial count in August 2006, which as of the date of her writing had yet to exceed the toll for July. Morgan must have typed quickly before reality could give the lie to her claim.

Check out the tally for yourself. We have a “victory” of the Morgan type every few months.

More victories like this we can't afford. The Democratic Congress must hang tough with the president and stanch our country's bleeding wound. Four years of “Mission Accomplished” is too much.

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