We all saw it. Indeed, that was the whole point. In the US, the networks stopped regular programming so we had little choice. The White House wanted to make sure we caught the full dramatic impact of the US president landing on the USS Abraham Lincoln in a Navy jet against a backdrop of a clear sky and the sign "Mission Accomplished." America the beautiful. America the invincible.
The soundtrack to this most flamboyant and flawed of photo opportunities was similarly unequivocal.
“Major combat operations in Iraq have ended,” US President George W. Bush said. “The battle of Iraq is one victory in a war on terror that began on Sept. 11, 2001, and still goes on.”
“We are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue,” wrote George Orwell in his essay “In Front of Your Nose.” “And then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right. Intellectually, it is possible to carry on this process for an indefinite time: the only check on it is that sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield.”
And so it was, this month, that on the fifth anniversary of that stunt the White House spokeswoman, Dana Perino, insisted we did not see what we thought we saw. Indeed, we were all mistaken. The president wasn’t referring to the Iraq war as such.
Instead, claimed Perino, he made all that effort and secured all that airtime to congratulate just that “particular” crew on having accomplished its “particular” 10-month mission.
“President Bush is well aware that the banner should have been much more specific and said ‘mission accomplished’ for these sailors who are on this ship on their mission,” she said. “And we have certainly paid a price for not being more specific on that banner.”
This kind of thing gives chutzpah a bad name. And yet, with this administration it is a practice with which we have become all too familiar. As median wages fall, Bush tells Americans they are better off; as the torture continues at Guantanamo Bay — the only part of Cuba that Bush actually controls — he calls on Cuban President Raul Castro to honor human rights; as he cuts taxes and starts wars, he calls on Congress to practice fiscal rectitude. Not content with pissing on your leg and telling you it’s raining, he tries to convince you that your leg has been dry all along.
As the primary season draws to a close it has become increasingly apparent that Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton has run her campaign with the same contempt for intelligence, decency and democracy that Bush has run the country. Like the Bush administration, her campaign has been sustained by cynicism, divisiveness and fear-mongering, leaving a toxic and rancorous rift in its wake. Like the White House, her aim has been to win at all costs. And like the White House, it has produced the same result. Failure.
It is a continuum not of policies — on that front she is closer to Senator Barack Obama than either of them would concede — but a mindset that has served the US ill these past seven years. Creating a bespoke reality out of whole cloth and then hoping people will not just buy it, but wear it.
In a last, desperate bid to resuscitate her campaign, Clinton will put her case for the ratification of the results of the Michigan and Florida primaries to the Democratic National Committee rules and bylaws committee later this week.