Frank Rich notes that the White House has lost control of the war in Iraq both in Iraq and here at home.
Cindy Sheehan couldn’t have picked a more apt date to begin the vigil that ambushed a president: Aug. 6 was the fourth anniversary of that fateful 2001 Crawford vacation day when George W. Bush responded to an intelligence briefing titled “Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States” by going fishing. On this Aug. 6 the president was no less determined to shrug off bad news. Though 14 marine reservists had been killed days earlier by a roadside bomb in Haditha, his national radio address that morning made no mention of Iraq. Once again Mr. Bush was in his bubble, ensuring that he wouldn’t see Ms. Sheehan coming. So it goes with a president who hasn’t foreseen any of the setbacks in the war he fabricated against an enemy who did not attack inside the United States in 2001.
When these setbacks happen in Iraq itself, the administration punts. But when they happen at home, there’s a game plan. Once Ms. Sheehan could no longer be ignored, the Swift Boating began. Character assassination is the Karl Rove tactic of choice, eagerly mimicked by his media surrogates, whenever the White House is confronted by a critic who challenges it on matters of war. The Swift Boating is especially vicious if the critic has more battle scars than a president who connived to serve stateside and a vice president who had “other priorities” during Vietnam.
This summer in Crawford, the White House went to this playbook once too often. When Mr. Bush’s motorcade left a grieving mother in the dust to speed on to a fund-raiser, that was one fat-cat party too far. The strategy of fighting a war without shared national sacrifice has at last backfired, just as the strategy of Swift Boating the war’s critics has reached its Waterloo before Patrick Fitzgerald’s grand jury in Washington. The 24/7 cable and Web attack dogs can keep on sliming Cindy Sheehan. The president can keep trying to ration the photos of flag-draped caskets. But this White House no longer has any more control over the insurgency at home than it does over the one in Iraq.
As much as our little friends over on the right would be loath to admit it, both the shit and the Shi’ite have hit the fan, and it’s going to be a very long road from here to November 2006 for them.