Nothing makes me more nervous about the future of Iraq than hearing Bush officials declare that its people are free. Donald Rumsfeld said so six times in his post-looting “freedom’s untidy” press conference on April 11. A few days later, President Bush told a crowd in St. Louis that, “Thanks to the courage and might of our military, the Iraqi people are now free.” No, they’re not. The president and the defense secretary are playing a semantic game. Just because the Iraqi people are free from Saddam Hussein doesn’t mean they’re free.
Al Sharpton is a world-class bullshitter. In a devastating 1996 review in these pages, Jim Sleeper noted that Sharpton's first autobiography, Go and Tell Pharaoh, included lies about his age (36 at the time, not 38), his residence (Englewood, New Jersey, not Brooklyn, New York), and even his motivation for writing the book (Sharpton attributed it to his 1991 stabbing; Sleeper showed that Sharpton hatched the idea months before that).
A month or so ago, in a speech to the National Religious Broadcasters’ annual convention, Attorney General John Ashcroft said the following: “Civilized individuals, Christians, Jews, and Muslims, all understand that the source of freedom and human dignity is the Creator. Governments may guard freedom. Governments don’t grant freedom.
Consider the following scenario: The United States overthrows the Taliban. President Bush makes good on his pledge to reconstruct Afghanistan, pouring in billions of dollars. In return, the new government helps America cleanse the country of Al Qaeda. The initial battle of the war on terrorism has been won; Afghanistan is no longer a breeding ground for genocidal Islam. But amidst the jubilation, Americans receive word that Osama bin Laden and 200 of his followers have slipped out of the country and taken refuge in Somalia. Absurd? Not necessarily.
Like a Giant Valium descending on Dulles International Airport, the Bush transition has come to Washington. Despite a good-faith effort to get exercised over John "Bob Jones Loves Me" Ashcroft, most of us seem already sedated by the sheer grown-upness of it all. Compared with the Clintonistas, yapping into cell phones at the Dupont Circle Starbucks at all hours of the day and night, the Bushies seem preternaturally calm. Where we once had a permanent campaign, we now have intermittent naps.
I am afraid to make any prediction about the adjournment of Congress. Some weeks ago along with everybody else I felt convinced the session would not be prolonged beyond the middle of June. Here it is close to the end of the month and there is just as much uncertainty about the final date as there was. It may have ended by the time this is in print and it may continue on to the last of July.