Well, it's going to be a long three and a half years.
Some Bush critics take comfort in the president's falling poll numbers. I don't. I figure they'll strengthen his resolve, not temper it. He and Rumsfeld and Cheney will ramp up the push for their radical agenda, to get it in place before Bush leaves office.
And there'll be plenty of opportunities for them, plenty of things they can do that'll take years to undo, Supreme Court appointments being only the most obvious. (Goodbye to Sandra Day O'Connor, goodbye to nuance, goodbye to "moderate conservatism," goodbye to thoughtful deliberation of issues and law.)
In his address to the nation last week, the president reminded us of just how callous this administration is. Faced with the nation's concerns about Iraq --- where thousands of Americans are risking their lives --- he responded with yet more lies, and more deceit.
The president knows very well --- and he has admitted --- that there is no connection between Iraq and Al Qaeda's September 11 attacks on this country. And yet in his speech, standing before soldiers at Fort Bragg, he linked the two repeatedly.
He insisted that although it's been "uneven," progress is being made in Iraq. Progress? The week of the president's speech, the number of American soldiers killed in Iraq hit 1744. There was yet another suicide bombing at a police recruiting station. Another bomb went off at a market. An aide to Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani was murdered, and an Egyptian diplomat was abducted. An attack on a power station shut off water to millions of Iraqis.
And, as the president noted in his speech --- apparently without irony --- residents of "Saudi Arabia and Syria, Iran, Egypt, Sudan, Yemen, Libya, and others" are now fighting alongside the Iraqi insurgents.
Last week in Afghanistan --- where, we've been told, we long ago effectively destroyed the Taliban --- 16 Americans died when their helicopter was shot down. An Afghan official told the New York Times that the Bush administration had been wrong about our destruction of the Taliban; they've been building up their strength, he said, and attacks in that country are increasing.
And at home, the Veterans Affairs department has admitted what some Democrats and Republicans have been warning. It has a major budget problem --- $1.5 billion --- that is preventing it from adequately caring for returning veterans.
Perhaps the president and his advisors really believe what he said at FortBragg: that things are getting better, that we're preventing terrorist attacks here by fighting in a country whose people were no threat to us before this war. Perhaps they do believe that the way to spread freedom is by unilateral invasion. (Who, then, is next?)
If that's the case, it's no less worrying than if Bush and his advisors know the truth and are ignoring it. Delusion, deceit: The Bush administration has given us both in the past four and a half years.
The president lied about why we attacked Iraq, and as he tries to build the nation's confidence about the war, he continues to lie.
After the president's speech, his supporters insisted that such issues as the reasons for our invasion are irrelevant. "The past is the past," communications director Dan Bartlett told the New York Times. "The president is addressing the question of what we are doing now, and we can all agree that we must finish the job."
But how? With this administration in charge, there's little reason to hope for a rational finish. As New York Times columnist Bob Herbert wrote recently:
"Whether one agreed with the launch of this war or not --- and I did not --- the troops doing the fighting deserve to be guided by leaders in Washington who are at least minimally competent at waging war. That has not been the case, which is why we can expect to remain stuck in this tragic quagmire for the foreseeable future."