Denying the obvious shouldn’t be a successful political technique, but it works for the Bush administration.
The most recent example of the “What is this air you talk about? I see no air” tactic is in effect now with Richard A. Clarke, a terrorism expert who worked for presidents Reagan, Bush Sr., Clinton and Bush Jr. Clarke is under attack for claiming the Bush administration focused on Iraq instead of Al Qaeda -- a provocation that would seem to give the White House its choice of targets.
Other recent examples were the assaults on candidate for president John Kerry for daring to say Secretary of State Colin Powell had been been on the sidelines of some recent policy debates and -- although the wording and context are in some dispute -- that many foreign leaders would be pleased to get Bush out of office.
The media have been referring for years to Powell’s alienation from the Bush mainstream. He’s been portrayed as a moderate among fanatics, with a recurring result being his need to correct quotes. In other words, he speaks freely on day one, but by day two he’s rephrasing in a fashion closer to the White House staff party line.
As to the foreign-leader issue, well, it’s no secret that tensions with U.S. allies began early, with Bush rejecting involvement on issues such as global warming and an international criminal court, and rose during the leadup to the Iraq war. Starting with France and Germany, how many foreign leaders equal a lot?
It certainly undercuts the administration’s arguments when Spain elects a leader on the record as hoping that “First we win here, we change this government, and then the Americans will do it.”
The Bush administration, though, can always claim Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero never said that. Just because he said it on radio and it was widely reported doesn’t mean it happened.