Friday, February 24, 2006

Urgent Memo to President Bush: The Sky is Falling

Urgent Memo to President Bush: The Sky is Falling

Dov Burt Levy
Jewish Journal (North of Boston)
column altered from original)
February 24, 2006

Chicken Little couldn't have put it better: The sky is falling, really falling, on the White House. They can't seem to get it right. They can't tell which issues are important, which need top priority, what the citizenry ought to know. Or even when something is clearly top priority, they can't seem to staff it right by putting highly skilled people in a position to give the president good advice or do the work.

When a Republican Congressional committee issues a blistering report challenging the competence and truthfulness of a Republican White House, a Republican president could not be in worse trouble. I refer to the report last week detailing in humiliating depths the shallowness of White House efforts, and the operatives' incompetence in trying to rescue the storm victims of Mississippi and Louisiana.

Only the Cheney shooting debacle kept this report from being the top news.

The truth is that events go by so fast that the average citizen, or even those of us who are paid to keep up with the news, can hardly get a grip on any one thing.

I call it the merry-go-round effect. Remember as the Revere Beach "Flying Horses" turned, you could try to reach out and attempt a capture of a brass ring entitling you to another ride.

Lots of luck; it wasn't easy. And neither is it easy to remember the failures of a month ago. Old news vaporizes on the TV. Last week's newspapers and their once-big stories are recycled and put out with the trash.

Well, let me add some specificity to the list of mistakes at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue by telling you about the White Houses' Hamas election fiasco, a story that has been lost on the news merry-go-round. Believe me, our attention will refocus on this issue as Hamas takes office in the Palestinian Authority government.

Let's go back a month. Remember how surprised the White House was by the Hamas victory? What was seen in pre-election polls as a 65-70 percent victory for Fatah over a 30-35 percent showing for Hamas turned out to be just the opposite.

Secretary of State Condelezza Rice said at a press conference, "I've asked [the staff] why nobody saw it [the Hamas victory] coming….It does say something about us not having a good enough pulse."

Pulse, Madame Secretary? How about knowledge and common sense?

College undergrads taking Political Science 101 know that polls work best (or only) in a first world country where a representative sample of likely voters can be queried, and where the likely responses won't be driven by fear and secrecy.

The Palestinian areas don't have a wide network of landline telephones. Phone directories, not listing cell phones, are grossly inaccurate. How do you find a representative sample in crowded urban areas or refugee camps? If you ever visited the nooks and crannies of the Muslim quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, you understand the problem.

More important, the Palestinian people know that keeping their mouths shut, their opinions to themselves, is not only wise but also life preserving. Vigilantes shoot or hang those accused of having wrong opinions, wrong friends, or wrong actions

The State Department, CIA, and White House should never have assumed the pre-election poll numbers were reasonably accurate. That is why our nation was not prepared to respond in a planned and useful way to the Hamas victory. Perhaps the president should not have insisted on holding an election when both Palestinian and Israeli officials urged delay.

Breaking news after I prepared this column: The Bush administration announces a contract giving a United Arab Emirates company the management of six major U.S. ports. I believe the White House when they say they were unaware of the contract. Certainly, given their demagogery using the national security card against all political opponents, George Bush, Dick Cheney and Andrew Card would have tried to cook this deal into an edible meal before the announcement. Even here, they can't seem to get their information, lower level appointees and political brain working together. My guess is that they lose another one.

God save the nation.


At 3:54 PM, Anonymous Richard Cheney said...

Dov is right, George.
Dick Cheney


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