In the Tournament of Abuses Parade, aka the George W. Bush presidency, it's almost impossible to lock in on one outrage. So many roll by in rapid succession.
Look quickly. The steel traps of Guantanamo Bay are wedged tightly by the Fox News float and the Echo Chamber Drumbeat Corps.
If you had a moment you could get outraged by the National Debt Moving Monument. It will hit $9.5 trillion by the end of the block. Then you get distracted by the $740 million U.S. embassy in Baghdad.
Amid it all, right now you can't even award the Governor's Cup to one of the biggest outrages in modern times: a Senate Intelligence Committee report on how a beaten-down, boxed-in Iraq was made into something that, in Bush's words, was "a gathering danger."
You can't give that outrage the top prize because something even more outrageous is being floated right now.
Rather than old pretexts for invading, we're scraping up pretexts for staying a lifetime.
Give or take decades, that would approximate the 100 years John McCain says is fine with him. He says that's been misconstrued as non-ending war. He says he's talking about a U.S. presence comparable to that in South Korea or Kuwait. The distinction is that we didn't invade them, didn't kill thousands of their sons and daughters getting there.
So let's slow down the parade and examine what should be the No. 1 issue of the 2008 presidential campaign.
Ryan Crocker, U.S. ambassador to Iraq, said last week that this nation does not seek permanent bases there.
At the same time, Britain's The Independent shares details from the security agreement U.S. officials are seeking with the Iraqi government:
"Long-term use of more than 50 bases in Iraq," plus immunity from Iraqi law for U.S. troops and contractors, "and a free hand to carry out arrests and conduct military activities in Iraq without consulting the Baghdad government."
If Iraq indeed is a democracy as touted, this will never fly. A majority of Iraqi lawmakers has signed a letter opposing any security pact with the United States that does not include a requirement that U.S. troops "fully withdraw."
On this question we find the rub between motivations under which American sons and daughters have been in Iraq five-plus years.
Did we invade to topple a dictator and seed self-government? Mission accomplished. Did we invade in a Pax Americana quest to remake the region in our own image? Mission demolished.
It will be said that "regional stability" and "U.S. national interests" are why we must stay for the long haul, the McCain haul.
This tells Iraqis that we really have no intention of letting Iraq be Iraq after Saddam.
That was Bush apologists' noble fallback after it was determined that Iraq had no connection to 9/11 and that the threat Saddam posed to Americans was as inflated as Snoopy on Fifth Avenue.
Rather than invading Iraq because we had to, as Bush framed it, we did it because we could. Now the question is: Why stay indefinitely? Apparently the answer is, because we can.
That makes the current democratic process -- not Iraq's but ours -- most pertinent as the parade flows by.
John Young's column appears Thursday, Sunday and occasionally Tuesday. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright 2008 Waco Tribune-Herald