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by TED RALL Saturday, Feb. 07, 2004 at 7:18 PM

Hit the theme from the old Mary Tyler Moore show. New lyric: stupidity is what's all around.

NEW YORK--Bush must be laughing his ass off. Voters too dim to recall yesterday's news are letting him get away with running on the imaginary successes of a phony record. Lazy journalists are allowing him to run on a patently fictional platform of promises while ignoring the disastrous realities he has planned for 2004. Now Democrats, falling for Karl Rove's silly "we'd love nothing more than to run against Howard Dean" baiting, are about to hand him the November opponent nominee Republicans wanted all along: John Kerry.

Hit the theme from the old Mary Tyler Moore show. New lyric: stupidity is what's all around.

By all rights Bush ought to be warming a prison cell right now. His own CIA-employed weapons of mass destruction hunter, David Kay, has given up his WMD search, conceding that there are none. Kay, who supports both Bush and his preemptive wars, thinks Saddam Hussein destroyed them all within six months after the end of the 1991 Gulf War, just as he was supposed to. "It turns out we were all wrong," Kay told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Well, not all of us. Not the millions of people who took to the streets to march against the war. But apparently they don't count.

In a case study of revisionism gone wild, the American media has embarked on a witch hunt against the CIA--the one intelligence outfit that repeatedly warned Bush's war cabinet that there was no solid evidence that Iraq posed any kind of threat. "How could the nation's billion-a-year intelligence apparatus, focused on Saddam's regime for more than a decade, have been so wrong?" chides USA Today. "How did the [CIA] make the leap from suspect intentions to bold claims of existing WMD programs?" asks Newsweek.

The CIA did no such thing. Director George Tenet has obviously struck a Machiavellian deal with the White House. He takes the election-year heat certain to be doled out by Bush's handpicked investigators into "intelligence failures"; in return, Bush lets him keep his job. Why so-called journalists are going along with this transparent farce is yet another instance of intelligence failure.

Aris Pappas, who worked for Tenet's Iraq intel panel, says that the CIA had "gone blind for three years" after Saddam threw out UN inspectors in 1998. After that the U.S. didn't know what Iraq was up to--or not. "They keep referring to a 'mountain' of evidence," says Pappas. "But it was corroborative evidence."

Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell and Rice didn't ask Americans to go to war--to send more than 500 of our young men and women to their graves--based on circumstantial evidence. They said they were sure; most of us believed them. Moreover, the CIA didn't make the case for war--the Gang of Five did. But thanks to a compliant media, America remains befuddled. A mere 43 percent of respondents to a USA Today poll believe that Bush deliberately misled them about Iraq's WMDs. Perhaps that's because even Democratic leaders are afraid to say what needs to be said: Bush lied about what he knew about Iraq and should be impeached.

Their unwillingness to seize such opportunities is a surefire prescription for a Bush victory in November.

Meanwhile broadcast and print outlets are dutifully analyzing and discussing Bush's ridiculous proposals to send astronauts to Mars, reform Medicare and allow every illegal immigrant willing to work for a dollar per hour into the country. But that's all election-year bluster designed to throw clueless Democrats off balance. The Bushies have big plans for next year, but they're not what you think.

Bush-watchers are arguing whether the White House's renegade neoconservative PNAC pack has next targeted Syria, North Korea or Iran for regime change in 2005. The answer, according to Administration insiders, is apparently none of the above. "Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar represent a threat to the world, and they need to be destroyed and we believe we will catch them in the next year," U.S. Army spokesman Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty said in January. Pentagon planners are weighing going back to the future--launching an election-year spring offensive in Afghanistan, followed by a full-fledged reinvasion next year. This time we'd send in the 100,000-plus troop complement that would have been required to do the job correctly in the first place.

Afghanistan 2.0 would be a potent issue for Democrats if they were smart enough to do something with it. Refighting the war, after all, would be a tacit admission that Bush & Co. screwed up the first skirmish in the war on terrorism and let Osama, American Enemy No. 1, get away. Since a Second Afghan War would require an increase in overall combat troop strength, liberals could ask where Bush plans to find those extra soldiers. A draft? Two-year deployments of the reserves? Unfortunately guys like Kerry are too busy making fun of the red planet red herring to wave this chunk of red meat at voters.

(Ted Rall is the editor of the new anthology of alternative cartoons "Attitude 2: The New Subversive Social Commentary Cartoonists," containing interviews with and cartoons by 21 of America's best cartoonists. Ordering information is available at


RALL 2/3/04

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