In the daily Washington Post online political chat, reporter Shailagh Murray (that's Shay-la, and not Shay-laugh, although you might call this exchange Shay-laughable) quips with very little originality that Dick Cheney sounds over-optimistic on talk shows because Bush is like a tenth-grade kid without much potential:
New York, N.Y.: Before the invasion, Vice President Cheney said that we will be greeted as liberators. Ten months ago he said the insurgency was in its last throes. Yesterday, he said that both of these statements "were basically accurate, reflect reality."
Is the vice president the most clueless person on earth, or is he just a big liar?
Shailagh Murray: Here's how I look at that situation. Your kid is in 10th grade. Your kid is a C student. He/she is not an athlete, nor a gifted musician, basically not a standout in any way. Do you cash in the college fund and start shopping community college, or do you keep pushing, just in case something clicks? These guys have A LOT of time left in office. They can't concede anything.
When a left-winger scolds her that this doesn't take into account all the "maiming and death" caused by Bush and Cheney, she conceded it might sound a bit flippant:
Yes, I realize that my analogy didn't take into account the gravity of war. But in a way, the war has become a sort of surreal feature of life in Washington, so politicized like everything else that when the VP speaks, it's assumed he's mouthing propaganda, and if a Democrat or someone else criticizes the war, he or she denounced as unpatriotic. If it all looks like political posturing from where you-all sit, I can assure you, it's even more so from our vantage point here in the belly of the beast.
That's a bit uneven. Reporters do assume Cheney is mouthing propaganda, but reporters don't greet Democratic war criticism as unpatriotic. (Politically risky, perhaps, but not unpatriotic.) Murray proclaims that her "Feingold the Maverick" front-pager last week really loosed the Bush-bashers on her e-mail account:
I wrote a story about Feingold last week that resulted in the angriest, most passionate email blizzard I have ever experienced. Clearly, this is an issue where blurry polls mask deeply held convictions on both sides, but particularly on the Left, where folks truly believe Bush is a war criminal.
That's a minority view. However, as Feingold points out, and I think he may be on to something, there has been a complacency in Washington since Sept. 11 that has extended with the Iraq war. Congress barely scrutinizes anything these days. Lawmakers in both parties are wary of undermining Bush when there are troops on the ground.
Talking to folks on the Hill, it is clear that the Feingold effort has touched a nerve in both parties. With Republicans, it exposes their great political weakness -- that they don't challenge Bush on anything. And Democrats are being pressed by their own base to stand up against Bush on this issue, to show they have backbone, and on the principle that in this instance Bush may in fact have violated the law.