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Arianna Huffington: The War Comes to Crawford, the President Disconnects
Arianna Huffington Wed Aug 17, 1:03 AM ET
At the beginning of this month, I said that I was all in favor of President Bush's vacation plans. But two weeks into his Crawford holiday, I'm rethinking my position.
What's changed? A number of things, starting with Cindy Sheehan, who has brought the reality of the Iraq war to the president's doorstep. Let's just say he's not dealing with that reality very well.
Fishing, going on two-hour bike rides, clearing brush, taking in a Little League ball game (to say nothing of raking in millions at a GOP fundraiser) all take on a different hue when juxtaposed with the harsh truth that Sheehan represents: We are at war. A war that continues to claim the lives of young American men and women. A war that, even if you are completely in favor of it, is not going well.
The latest setback: the administration's desperate effort to dress up a budding theocracy in democracy's clothes hit a major snag with word that the Iraq National Assembly had been forced to extend the deadline for drafting a new constitution because of huge differences over the division of oil money, the role of religion, and the status of women.
How bad is the situation there? Barham Salih, Iraq's minister of planning and development, tried to look at the bright side of things by saying, "We are failing to reach compromises. But we are not killing each other." You know things are in trouble when the good news is that the Founding Fathers of the New Iraq are not blowing each other to bits. Too bad the same cannot be said for the insurgents targeting our troops and ordinary Iraqis.
Yes, Cindy Sheehan is merely a symbol of the Iraq debacle. But presidents are symbols too. And symbols matter -- especially in a time of war. And projecting an image of total disconnection to what is going on in Iraq -- and the pain it is causing here at home, as well as the precious resources it is consuming -- is a very disturbing message for Bush to be sending.
I'm not suggesting that he adopt Jimmy Carter's Rose Garden strategy or spend his every waking hour in the White House situation room. But kicking back on the ranch -- and ignoring Sheehan and all she represents -- is definitely not the appropriate response.
But there's another reason I now think it's time for the president to cut his vacation short: judging from his recent comments, he clearly has too much time on his hands -- and has been spending it reading touchy-feely women's magazines and watching Dr. Phil and Tony Robbins.
"I think the people want the president to be in a position to make good, crisp decisions and to stay healthy," he said when asked about opting to ride his bike instead of meeting with Sheehan. "And part of my being is to be outside exercising." Part of his being? Too bad all that healthy exercise didn't keep his being from making the bad, soggy decision to actually say these things out loud.
And there was more: "I'm mindful of what goes on around me. On the other hand, I'm also mindful that I've got a life to live and will do so." Dead soldiers, grieving mothers, and suffering Iraqis be damned.
The president also let us know that it's important for him "to keep a balanced life."
Well, I'm all for balance -- we Greeks invented it. But it seems the presidential equilibrium has gone way out of whack. To regain his footing he needs to re-connect to the crisis in Iraq, give Cindy Sheehan a few minutes of his time, and get the hell out of Crawford.
Show us you're willing to make a sacrifice in a time of war, Mr. President -- even if that just means cutting your vacation a little short. Those of us who are mindful of what is really going on around us -- not to mention several thousand miles away in Iraq -- will appreciate the crispness of that decision.