Seven Days in December?
At the White House news conference yesterday, The Chicago Tribune’s Mark Silva gingerly snuck up on a state-of-mind question.
“I can’t help but read your body language this morning, Mr. President,” he said. “You seem somehow dispirited, somewhat dispirited.”
W. did look like a kid who’d just had his toys taken away. But he acted humorously exasperated, as he always does when the talk turns introspective.
“This is like, all of a sudden, it’s like Psychology 101, you know?” he said, as reporters laughed.
The reporters pressed on about whether the president was troubled about a possible “credibility gap” with the American people, given that the facts had failed him on Iraq and Iran and that Harry Reid had charged that “the president is not leveling with the American people” on war spending.
Even though Norman Podhoretz is conjuring up a “Seven Days in December” spy thriller scenario in which the intelligence agencies colluded to sabotage the president and prevent him from the noble mission of air strikes on Iran, W. insisted he felt “pretty good about life.”
He said that the breathtaking and embarrassing reversal in the National Intelligence Estimate about Iran’s nuclear capability — from “high confidence” in 2005 that the mullahs were developing a nuke to “high confidence” that they stopped the program in 2003 — somehow made it clear that he was right.
If W. can shape the intelligence to match his faith-based beliefs, as with Iraq, then he will believe the intelligence — no matter how incredible it is.
If he can’t shape it to match his beliefs, as with Iran, then he will disregard the intelligence — no matter how credible it is.
Even though Sy Hersh claims that the top echelon of the White House has long known of the conclusion that Iran had stopped its nuke program, and that Dick Cheney “has kept his foot on the neck of that report,” the president says he was briefed on it only last week. Others conspiratorially speculate that the president had to have green-lighted the report to take the air out of the hawks’ Iran push.
Just because the facts on which he based his white-hot rhetoric about Iran possibly sparking World War III have been debunked, W. said with his usual twisted logic, why should his policy change?
Indeed, John Bolton, who must have been paying attention in his Psych 101 class, argued to Wolf Blitzer that the intelligence analysts “got Iraq wrong and they’re overcompensating by understating the potential threat from Iran.”
George Tenet helped hawks like Mr. Cheney and Mr. Bolton overstate the case on Iraq W.M.D. Then, when things went wrong, W., Cheney and Condi made Mr. Tenet the fall guy.
After getting Iraq wrong and Iran wrong in 2005 and almost every other big thing wrong since the nation began spending billions every year on intelligence, the burned spooks may not have wanted to play the patsy again while W., Cheney and the neocons beat the drums for an Iran invasion.
Now the apple-polishing George Tenet is gone. The man who oversaw the new estimate is Tom Fingar, a former State Department intelligence officer who was smart and brave enough to object to the cooked-up intelligence on Iraqi W.M.D.
“The way they used to do business was to write estimates in a way that couched things so they said, ‘We may not always be right, but we’re never wrong,’ ” said Tim Weiner, the reporter for The Times who wrote the award-winning history of the C.I.A., “Legacy of Ashes.” “This is a slam-dunk reversal, admitting error. Now, when they play poker, they show their hands to each other, so they don’t get another curveball.”
The president, who has shut out reality for seven years, justified continuing in his world of ideological illusion by saying that he would not be “blinded” to the realities of the world. You can’t get more Orwellian than that.
“And so,” W. concluded triumphantly, and nonsensically, “kind of Psychology 101 ain’t working.”
W. loves to act as though psychology is voodoo even though his whole misbegotten foreign policy has been conducted from his gut, by checking the body language of his inner circle and looking into the hearts and souls of dictatorial leaders.
If I were looking at the latest fiasco from a Psych 101 point of view, I’d say it was another daddy issue for W.
Poppy Bush, who was once C.I.A. director, loved the agency and liked to sign notes: “Head Spook.” The C.I.A. headquarters bear his name.
W., by contrast, has voiced contempt for the intelligence community. In 2004, he dismissed a pessimistic National Intelligence Estimate that didn’t match his sunny vision of the Iraq occupation, saying that the analysts were “just guessing as to what the conditions might be like.”
When W.’s history is written, he will be seen as the rebellious teenager crashing the family station wagon into his father’s three most cherished spots — diplomacy, intelligence and the Gulf.