Twelve unforgettable minutes (and 2,000 words) of American television news. It is my hope that this is remembered by historians and media scholars as one of the most important and visceral TV news moments of this decade. Time will tell.
President Bush has resorted anew to the sleaziest fear-mongering and mass manipulation of an administration and public life dedicated to realizing the lowest of our expectations. And he has now applied these poisons to the 2008 presidential election, on behalf of the party at whose center he and John McCain lurk.
Mr. Bush has predicted that the election of a Democratic president could "eventually lead to another attack on the United States." This ludicrous, infuriating, holier-than-thou and most importantly bone-headedly wrong statement came during a May 13 interview with Politico.com and online users of Yahoo.
The question was phrased as follows: "If we were to pull out of Iraq next year, what's the worst that could happen, what's the doomsday scenario?"
The president replied: "Doomsday scenario of course is that extremists throughout the Middle East would be emboldened, which would eventually lead to another attack on the United States. The biggest issue we face is, it's bigger than Iraq, it's this ideological struggle against cold-blooded killers who will kill people to achieve their political objectives."
Mr. Bush, at long last, has it not dawned on you that the America you have now created, includes "cold-blooded killers who will kill people to achieve their political objectives?" They are those in — or formerly in — your employ, who may yet be charged some day with war crimes.
Through your haze of self-congratulation and self-pity, do you still have no earthly clue that this nation has laid waste to Iraq to achieve your political objectives? "This ideological struggle," Mr. Bush, is taking place within this country.
It is a struggle between Americans who cherish freedom, ours and everybody else's, and Americans like you, sir, to whom freedom is just a brand name, just like "Patriot Act" is a brand name or "Protect America" is a brand name.
But wait, there's more: You also said "Iraq is the place where al-Qaida and other extremists have made their stand and they will be defeated." They made no "stand" in Iraq, sir, you allowed them to assemble there!
As certainly as if that were the plan, the borders were left wide open by your government's farcical post-invasion strategy of "they'll greet us as liberators." And as certainly as if that were the plan, the inspiration for another generation of terrorists in another country was provided by your government's farcical post-invasion strategy of letting the societal infra-structure of Iraq dissolve, to be replaced by an American viceroy, enforced by merciless mercenaries who shoot unarmed Iraqis and then evade prosecution in any country by hiding behind your skirts, sir.
Terrorism inside Iraq is your creation, Mr. Bush!
It was a Yahoo user who brought up the second topic upon whose introduction Mr. Bush should have passed, or punted, or gotten up and left the room claiming he heard Dick Cheney calling him.
"Do you feel," asked an ordinary American, "that you were misled on Iraq?"
"I feel like — I felt like, there were weapons of mass destruction," the president said. "You know, 'mislead' is a strong word, it almost connotes some kind of intentional — I don't think so, I think there was a — not only our intelligence community, but intelligence communities all across the world shared the same assessment. And so I was disappointed to see how flawed our intelligence was."
You, Mr. Bush, and your tragically know-it-all minions, threw out every piece of intelligence that suggested there were no such weapons.
You, Mr. Bush, threw out every person who suggested that the sober, contradictory, reality-based intelligence needed to be listened to, and fast.
You, Mr. Bush, are responsible for how "intelligence communities all across the world shared the same assessment."
You and the sycophants you dredged up and put behind the most important steering wheel in the world propagated palpable nonsense and shoved it down the throat of every intelligence community across the world and punished anybody who didn't agree it was really chicken salad.
And you, Mr. Bush, threw under the bus, all of the subsequent critics who bravely stepped forward later to point out just how much of a self-fulfilling prophecy you had embraced, and adopted as this country's policy in lieu of, say, common sense.
The fiasco of pre-war intelligence, sir, is your fiasco.
You should build a great statue of yourself turning a deaf ear to the warnings of realists, while you are shown embracing the three-card monte dealers like Richard Perle and Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney.
That would be a far more fitting tribute to your legacy, Mr. Bush, than this presidential library you are constructing as a giant fable about your presidency, an edifice you might as well claim was built from "Iraqi weapons of mass destruction" because there will be just as many of those inside your presidential library as there were inside Saddam Hussein's Iraq.
Of course if there is one overriding theme to this president's administration it is the utter, always-failing, inability to know when to quit when it is behind. And so Mr. Bush answered yet another question about this layered, nuanced, wheels-within-wheels garbage heap that constituted his excuse for war.
"And so you feel that you didn't have all the information you should have or the right spin on that information?"
"No, no," replied the President. "I was told by people, that they had weapons of mass destruction …"
People? What people? The insane informant "Curveball?" The Iraqi snake-oil salesman Ahmed Chalabi? The American snake-oil salesman Dick Cheney?
"I was told by people that they had weapons of mass destruction, as were members of Congress, who voted for the resolution to get rid of Saddam Hussein.
"And of course, the political heat gets on and they start to run and try to hide from their votes."
Mr. Bush, you destroyed the evidence that contradicted the resolution you jammed down the Congress's throat, the way you jammed it down the nation's throat. When required by law to verify that your evidence was accurate, you simply resubmitted it, with phrases amounting to "See, I done proved it" virtually written in the margins in crayon.
You defied patriotic Americans to say "The Emperor Has No Clothes," only with the stakes — as you and the mental dwarves in your employ put it — being a "mushroom cloud over an American city."
And as a final crash of self-indulgent nonsense, when the incontrovertible truth of your panoramic and murderous deceit has even begun to cost your political party seemingly perpetual congressional seats in places like North Carolina and Mississippi, you can actually say with a straight face, sir, that for members of Congress "the political heat gets on and they start to run and try to hide from their votes" — while you greet the political heat and try to run and hide from your presidency, and your legacy — 4,000 of the Americans you were supposed to protect — dead in Iraq, with your only feeble, pathetic answer being, "I was told by people that they had weapons of mass destruction."
Then came Mr. Bush's final blow to our nation's solar plexus, his last reopening of our common wounds, his last remark that makes the rest of us question not merely his leadership or his judgment but his very suitably to remain in office.
"Mr. President," he was asked, "you haven't been golfing in recent years. Is that related to Iraq?"
"Yes," began perhaps the most startling reply of this nightmarish blight on our lives as Americans on our history. "It really is. I don't want some mom whose son may have recently died to see the Commander in Chief playing golf. I feel I owe it to the families to be as — to be in solidarity as best as I can with them. And I think playing golf during a war just sends the wrong signal."
Golf, sir? Golf sends the wrong signal to the grieving families of our men and women butchered in Iraq? Do you think these families, Mr. Bush, their lives blighted forever, care about you playing golf? Do you think, sir, they care about you?
You, Mr. Bush, let their sons and daughters be killed. Sir, to show your solidarity with them you gave up golf? Sir, to show your solidarity with them you didn't give up your pursuit of this insurance-scam, profiteering, morally and financially bankrupting war.
Sir, to show your solidarity with them you didn't even give up talking about Iraq, a subject about which you have incessantly proved without pause or backwards glance, that you may literally be the least informed person in the world?
Sir, to show your solidarity with them, you didn't give up your presidency? In your own words "solidarity as best as I can" is to stop a game? That is the "best" you can do?
Four thousand Americans give up their lives and your sacrifice was to give up golf! Golf. Not "Gulf" — golf.
And still it gets worse. Because it proves that the president's unendurable sacrifice, his unbearable pain, the suspension of getting to hit a ball with a stick, was not even his own damned idea.
"Mr. President, was there a particular moment or incident that brought you to that decision, or how did you come to that?"
"I remember when [diplomat Sergio Vieira] de Mello, who was at the U.N., got killed in Baghdad as a result of these murderers taking this good man's life. And I was playing golf, I think I was in central Texas, and they pulled me off the golf course and I said, it's just not worth it any more to do."
Your one, tone-deaf, arrogant, pathetic, embarrassing gesture, and you didn't even think of it yourself? The great Bushian sacrifice — an Army private loses a leg, a Marine loses half his skull, 4,000 of their brothers and sisters lose their lives — and you lose golf, and they have to pull you off the golf course to get you to just do that?
If it's even true.
Apart from your medical files, which dutifully record your torn calf muscle and the knee pain which forced you to give up running at the same time — coincidence, no doubt — the bombing in Baghdad which killed Sergio Vieira de Mello of the U.N. and interrupted your round of golf was on Aug. 19, 2003.
Yet CBS News has records of you playing golf as late as Oct. 13 of that year, nearly two months later.
Mr. Bush, I hate to break it to you 6 1/2 years after you yoked this nation and your place in history to the wrong war, in the wrong place, against the wrong people, but the war in Iraq is not about you.
It is not, Mr. Bush, about your grief when American after American comes home in a box.
It is not, Mr. Bush, about what your addled brain has produced in the way of paranoid delusions of risks that do not exist, ready to be activated if some Democrat, and not your twin Mr. McCain, succeeds you.
The war in Iraq, your war, Mr. Bush, is about how you accomplished the derangement of two nations, and how you helped funnel billions of taxpayer dollars to lascivious and perennially thirsty corporations like Halliburton and Blackwater, and how you sent 4,000 Americans to their deaths for nothing.
It is not, Mr. Bush, about your golf game! And, sir, if you have any hopes that next Jan. 20 will not be celebrated as a day of soul-wrenching, heart-felt thanksgiving, because your faithless stewardship of this presidency will have finally come to a merciful end, this last piece of advice:
When somebody asks you, sir, about Democrats who must now pull this country back from the abyss you have placed us at ...
When somebody asks you, sir, about the cooked books and faked threats you foisted on a sincere and frightened nation …
When somebody asks you, sir, about your gallant, noble, self-abnegating sacrifice of your golf game so as to soothe the families of the war dead.
This advice, Mr. Bush: Shut the hell up!