Rich: We have a new surrogate president now; Long live David Petraeus!
Published: Sunday July 29, 2007

Print This  Email This

While many joked about Vice President Dick Cheney taking over "during the presidential colonoscopy last weekend," NY Times columnist Frank Rich writes, "We have a new surrogate president now. Sic transit Cheney. Long live David Petraeus!"

"It was The Washington Post that first quantified Gen. Petraeus' remarkable ascension," Rich writes. "President Bush, who mentioned his new Iraq commander's name only six times as the surge rolled out in January, has cited him more than 150 times in public utterances since, including 53 in May alone."

Rich adds, "And so another constitutional principle can be added to the long list of those junked by this administration: the quaint notion that our uniformed officers are supposed to report to civilian leadership. In a de facto military coup, the commander in chief is now reporting to the commander in Iraq. We must 'wait to see what David has to say,' Bush says."

Excerpts from Rich's column:


He is delivering, heaven knows. Like Bush, he has taken to comparing the utter stalemate in the Iraqi parliament to "our own debates at the birth of our nation," as if the Hamilton-Jefferson disputes were akin to the Shiite-Sunni bloodletting. He is also starting to echo the administration line that al-Qaida is the principal villain in Iraq, a departure from the more nuanced and realistic picture of the civil-war-torn battlefront he presented to Senate questioners in his confirmation hearings in January.

Bush has become so reckless in his own denials of reality that he seems to think he can get away with saying anything as long as he has his "main man" to front for him. The president now hammers in the false litany of a "merger" between Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida and what he calls "al-Qaida in Iraq" as if he were following the Madison Avenue script declaring that "Cingular is now the new AT&T." He doesn't seem to know that nearly 40 other groups besides al-Qaida in Mesopotamia have adopted al-Qaida's name or pledged allegiance to Osama bin Laden worldwide since 2003, by the count of the former CIA counterterrorism official Michael Scheuer. They may follow us here well before any insurgents in Iraq do.

On Tuesday -- a week after the National Intelligence Estimate warned of the resurgence of bin Laden's Qaida in Pakistan -- Bush gave a speech in which he continued to claim that "al-Qaida in Iraq" makes Iraq the central front in the war on terror. He mentioned al-Qaida 95 times but Pakistan and Pervez Musharraf not once. Two days later, his own top intelligence officials refused to endorse his premise when appearing before Congress. They are all too familiar with the threats that are building to a shrill pitch this summer.