VERY, VERY SLOW LEARNERS
The all-out campaign to salvage Bush's legacy continues today, as national security adviser Stephen Hadley and White House chief of staff Josh Bolten give a joint interview to The Washington Post.
Bolten and Hadley can't seem to think of a single thing Bush did wrong, especially on Iraq -- but, er, guys, if you're going to defend the man's skill at reacting to changed circumstances in a timely fashion, maybe you should avoid saying things like this (emphasis mine):
Hadley also gave little ground to criticism of the administration's detention and interrogation policies, saying there is a balance to be struck between protecting the country and being transparent about what the government is doing to fight terrorism.
"I think the balance that you can strike now, after you have not been attacked for seven years, may be a little bit different than the balance that you would strike in the immediate year after the attack when you don't know who the enemy is," Hadley said. "You've got to be careful about that kind of second-guessing, because it's hard to re-create the environment in which those decisions were made in the immediate aftermath of 9/11."
"In the immediate year"? The enemy was unknown in the immediate year after 9/11?
Good grief. These people were in charge. We were so screwed.
When asked why the president took so long to shift course after conditions in Iraq had clearly deteriorated, Hadley replied that Bush had a responsibility to keep hope alive for the soldiers, their families and other coalition partners in Iraq even while considering a new strategy. "Are there things we should and would have done differently? Sure," Hadley said. "Could it have been done sooner? I personally don't think so. You know, these things take some time. The trick was then to realize we had a strategy that didn't work and then to make the change -- and that's what the president did."
Right. The looting started within days of the fall of Baghdad; the course correction happened more than three and a half years later. Hey, don't rush me!
Oh, and the best part: Bush didn't change course so as not to hurt the troops' morale! What a compassionate conservative! So much kinder to leave the troops in the tenth circle of hell, but knowing their commander-in-chief was "staying the course"! I'm sure that made them feel much better!
CLARIFICATION: Perhaps I'm misinterpreting Hadley's remark above. Perhaps he doesn't mean that the administration didn't know al-Qaeda was responsible for 9/11 for a year; perhaps he means "Golly, we didn't know which brown people were the 9/11 evildoers and which ones weren't." So, y'know, just take everyone whose arrest was the result of a bribe or a tribal dispute and just throw 'em in a hole with no due process, in many cases after torture, because getting the facts straight is just hard, dammit.