Maybe it’s the fact that Bush is safely re-elected, maybe it’s his flagging poll numbers, maybe it’s the cumulative effect of spousal abuse syndrome…but the relationship between the administration and the press has turned decidedly nasty lately.

Today’s Washington Post comes very close to calling them a pack of liars.

President Bush’s portrayal of a wilting insurgency in Iraq at a time of escalating violence and insecurity throughout the country is reviving the debate over the administration’s Iraq strategy and the accuracy of its upbeat claims.

While Bush and Vice President Cheney offer optimistic assessments of the situation…Privately, some administration officials have concluded the violence will not subside through this year.

The disconnect between Rose Garden optimism and Baghdad pessimism, according to government officials and independent analysts, stems not only from Bush’s focus on tentative signs of long-term progress but also from the shrinking range of policy options available to him if he is wrong. Having set out on a course of trying to stand up a new constitutional, elected government with the security firepower to defend itself, Bush finds himself locked into a strategy that, even if it proves successful, foreshadows many more deadly months to come first, analysts said.

But it is not just the Post that is calling them liars. Some Republicans are insinuating the same thing.


Rep. Curt Weldon (R-Pa.), who joined Biden for part of the trip, said Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and others are misleading Americans about the number of functional Iraqi troops and warned the president to pay more attention to shutting off Syrian and Iranian assistance to the insurgency. “We don’t want to raise the expectations of the American people prematurely,” he said.

Weldon uses ‘misleading’. Rep. Chabot uses ‘(in)accurate'”

“I am pleased that in less than a year’s time, there’s a democratically elected government in Iraq, there are thousands of Iraq soldiers trained and better equipped to fight for their own country [and] that our strategy is very clear,” Bush said during a Rose Garden news conference Tuesday. Overall, he said, “I’m pleased with the progress.” Cheney offered an even more hopeful assessment during a CNN interview aired the night before, saying the insurgency was in its “last throes.”

Several Republicans questioned that evaluation. “I cannot say with any confidence that that is accurate,” said Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), a member of the House International Relations Committee. “I think it’s impossible to know how close we are to the insurgency being overcome.”

McCain refers to the lack of ‘frank talk'”

“We are just paying a heavy price for mistakes made before,” said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)…McCain said Bush needs to carefully balance his reassuring statements to a troubled nation with frank talk about the arduous and unpredictable future. “It’s a long, hard struggle and very gradually maybe we are making progress,” McCain said. “There are tough times ahead.”

The Post sums up:

It is not unusual for a president to put the most positive spin possible on U.S. policy, especially during a time of armed conflict when public support is crucial. But the administration’s assertions about Iraq have been a source of controversy since the earliest days of the operation, from the insistence that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction to Cheney’s claim of links between Iraq and al Qaeda to the rosy forecasts about how welcome U.S. troops would be.

‘Source of controversy’ is a nice way of saying ‘willfully and cynically wrong’. But at least the press and (some) Republicans are no longer afraid to point this out. We are driving over a cliff. Someone in the GOP caucus and the corporate media needs to point that out. Especially when you consider the following:

“It’s dangerous when U.S. officials start to believe their own propaganda,” said David L. Phillips, a former State Department consultant who worked on Iraq planning but quit in frustration in 2003 and has written a book called “Losing Iraq: Inside the Postwar Reconstruction Fiasco.” “I have no doubt that they genuinely think that Iraq is a smashing success and a milestone in their forward freedom strategy. But if you ask Iraqis, they have a different opinion.”

No doubt.

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