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Sunday, October 31, 2004

Film noir, or a bankrupt presidency

"As George Will has pointed out, our war in Iraq has now lasted longer than America's involvement in World War I. The span from 9/11 to Election Day 2004 is only three months shy of the 41 months separating the attack on Pearl Harbor from V-E day. And still the storyline doesn't compute. Mr. Bush, having not brought back his original bad guy dead or alive, is now fond of saying that 'three-quarters of Al Qaeda leaders have been brought to justice.' Even if true, is he telling us the war on terror is three-quarters over? Al Qaeda is, by our government's own account, in 60 countries. Last time I looked we're only at war in two.

The administration tries to finesse such narrative disconnects by creating a noir mood of 'perpetual fear' - to borrow Philip Roth's totemic phrase from 'The Plot Against America' - in line with what it sees as a perpetual war. But is perpetual war any more coherent a plot line? Mr. Bush calls himself 'a war president' any chance he gets, yet he must be the first war president in history to respond to every setback with a call for new tax cuts. There isn't a person in the world, including our enemies, who doesn't know that we have fewer troops than we need, now or in perpetuity, and that we're too broke to spring for more."

-Frank Rich, New York Times


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