The place where optimism most flourishes is the lunatic asylum.
Havelock Ellis, The Dance of Life
The question on everyone's lips is what is he smoking? And the follow-up question is where did he get it? And among those who, like him, enjoy hallucinating, a second follow-up question (although at press conferences he only allows one) is: Can we get some too?
The questions were prompted by President Bush's comments to reporters on Dec. 1 when he was meeting with President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria.. One of the reporters asked about the possibility of postponing the Iraqi elections. That question was posed more than a year after the president dressed up to look like a fighter pilot and stood under a banner on a troop ship proclaiming "Mission Accomplished." In the months following that bit of presidential theater, more than 11, 000 service personnel lost sight, hearing, arms, legs and lives. It was not a great year for those folks. But back to the questions.
We know that Mr. Bush has no need for medical marijuana and it's not legal where he lives. Furthermore, his administration is intent on making sure that those who actually have need of medical marijuana, and whose states permit its use, don't have access to it. That was why Paul D. Clement, the Acting Solicitor General, argued before the U. S. Supreme Court on Nov. 29 that letting someone grow marijuana in her own backyard in California for her own medicinal use as authorized by California law, should be prohibited because of its adverse effect on interstate commerce. It affects interstate commerce, so the argument goes, since if she grows all she needs for medicinal purposes in her own back yard she won't buy it on the open market. That will have an adverse effect on people who make their living growing marijuana in other states who intend to sell it to people living in California. The government, is, as the arguments showed, zealous about protecting the rights of drug suppliers to ply their trade and protecting the profits the drug dealers get from interstate commerce.
The reason for wondering what he smokes, of course, is Mr. Bush's sunny if smirksome expression whenever anyone asks him about how things are going in Iraq. His facial expression suggests that that is about the dumbest question anyone could possibly ask.
And so it was that on Dec. 2, he responded to a question about possibly postponing the election in Iraq by saying: "The elections should not be postponed. It's time for the Iraqi citizens to go to the polls. And that's why we are very firm on the Jan. 30 date. . . . It's one of those moments in history where a lot of people will be amazed that a society has been transformed so quickly from one of tyranny and torture and mass graves to one in which people are actually allowed to express themselves at the ballot box."
That was the same day people were amazed to hear that a U.S. soldier on patrol in Mosul was killed, the decapitated body of an Iraqi police offer was discovered and 10 more unidentified bodies were found. It was one day before 14 people were killed in a suicide bombing in Baghdad near a Shi'ite mosque, 12 police officers were killed when their police station in the west of the city was attacked and 27 Iraqi civilians and dozens of insurgents were killed in Mosul. Mr. Bush couldn't comment on those incidents since whatever Mr. Bush is smoking doesn't enable him to see into the future. Mr. Bush thinks he's done everything just right in the past and as soon as Iraqis express themselves at the ballot box they'll quit expressing themselves with explosives.
Richard Armitage, outgoing deputy secretary of state, was interviewed in Australia on Dec. 4. Speaking of Iraq he said: "Well, it's a bit messy right now. ... We're continuing to lose soldiers and Iraqi policemen and National Guard figures are continuing to die as well. ... [T]raditionally, I think Americans support hope and enthusiasm and opportunity, but after 9/11 it was anger and our fear that we exported."
Chuck Hagel, a Republican senator from Nebraska, visited with top American commanders in Iraq and said: "I did not find one commander who said to me, 'We're winning.' They're doing everything they can. But we have constantly underestimated the insurgency force and the vitality of the insurgency."
Both Mr. Hagel and Mr. Armitage see what is happening. Mr. Bush can't or won't. He just keeps on smoking.
Christopher Brauchli is a Boulder lawyer and and writes a weekly column for the Knight Ridder news service. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright 2004, The Daily Camera