"Yes, absolutely. And, Helen, that's an important point. We do not [deal] in 'Amen' choruses. What you do is you invite smart people in who have different points of view."But, once again, the White House was blowing smoke up our you-know-what. This meeting took place, but there was no debate, no discussion with contrasting points of view.
As Washington Post columnist Dan Froomkin noted:
Paul Richter and Peter Wallsten write in the Los Angeles Times that "the analysts who attended the Pentagon lunch, which lasted nearly two hours, said it was arranged as a fact-gathering session, rather than a policy debate." So there was no such debate.Davis did his best to reinforce the stereotype that PhD merely stands for "piled high and deeper." His opening remarks to the president set a new standard for bullshit. Froomkin writes:
And, they add: "Although at least three of the four experts have criticized U.S. policy in the Middle East, none has called for U.S. withdrawal from Iraq."
I spoke at some length yesterday with one of the participants in the meeting, trying to get a sense of whether Bush was exposed to any substantive critique of his Iraq policy. The answer: apparently not.
Eric M. Davis is a political science professor at Rutgers University, best known for his optimism about Iraqi democracy. Like the other participants, he has in the past expressed some views that aren't entirely in line with the White House's.
For instance, Davis said he personally feels that Bush "let the genie out of the bottle and made some major mistakes" in Iraq. But, he adds: "now that we've done that, we need to stay there." And Davis said he didn't get into that first part with Bush. "That's water under the bridge."
(Professor) Davis sent me a copy of his prepared remarks. He started this way: "First, Mr. President, you have done a forceful job of explaining to the American people what is at stake in Iraq. However, I believe that the American people do not fully understand the potential domino effects that the collapse of Iraq into disorder and anarchy would have on the Middle East and the global political system."Isn't that a bit contradictory?
If the prez has done such a "forceful job" of explaining what's at stake in Iraq, then why don't the American people comprehend what's at stake?
People like Bush and Rutgers' Davis are so convinced of their own wisdom that they cannot fathom the possibility that some of us simply don't define the stakes the same way they do.