President Bush and his advisers have made a lot of ridiculous charges about critics of the war in Iraq: they're unpatriotic, they want the terrorists to win, they don't support the troops, to cite just a few. But none of these seem quite as absurd as President Bush's latest suggestion, that critics of the war whose children are at risk are too "emotional" to see things clearly.The direct target was Matthew Dowd, one of the chief strategists of Mr. Bush's 2004 presidential campaign, who has grown disillusioned with the president and the war, which he made clear in an interview with Jim Rutenberg published in The Times last Sunday. But by extension, Mr. Bush's comments were insulting to the hundreds of thousands of Americans whose sons, daughters, sisters, brothers and spouses have served or will serve in Iraq.
They are perfectly capable of forming judgments about the war, pro or con, on the merits. But when Mr. Bush was asked about Mr. Dowd during a Rose Garden news conference yesterday, he said, "This is an emotional issue for Matthew, as it is for a lot of other people in our country."
Mr. Dowd's case, Mr. Bush said, "as I understand it, is obviously intensified because his son is deployable."Over the weekend, two of Mr. Bush's chief spokesmen, Dan Bartlett and Dana Perino, claimed that Mr. Dowd's change of heart about the war was rooted in "personal" issues and "emotions," and talked of his "personal journey." In recent years, Mr. Dowd suffered the death of a premature twin daughter, and was divorced. His son is scheduled to serve in Iraq soon.
Mr. Dowd said his experiences were a backdrop to his reconsideration of his support of the war and Mr. Bush. There is nothing wrong with that, but there is something deeply wrong with the White House's dismissing his criticism as emotional, as if it has no reasoned connection to Mr. Bush's policies.
This form of attack is especially galling from a president who from the start tried to paint this war as virtually sacrifice-free: the Iraqis would welcome America with open arms, the war would be paid for with Iraqi oil revenues - and the all-volunteer military would concentrate the sacrifice on only a portion of the nation's families.
Mr. Bush's comments about Mr. Dowd are a reflection of the otherworldliness that permeates his public appearances these days. Mr. Bush seems increasingly isolated, clinging to a fantasy version of Iraq that is more and more disconnected from reality. He gives a frightening impression that he has never heard any voice from any quarter that gave him pause, much less led him to rethink a position.
Mr. Bush's former campaign aide showed an open-mindedness and willingness to adapt to reality that is sorely lacking in the commander in chief.
© 2007 The New York Times