Columnist/arts editor Frank Rich was doing his usual thing in Sunday's Week in Review column, "Has He Started Talking to the Walls? "
Rich, for his part, is talking only to his fellow Bush-despisers.
"It's not that he can't handle the truth about Iraq. He doesn't know what the truth is. The most startling example was [Bush's] insistence that Al Qaeda is primarily responsible for the country's spiraling violence. Only a week before Mr. Bush said this, the American military spokesman on the scene, Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, called Al Qaeda 'extremely disorganized' in Iraq, adding that 'I would question at this point how effective they are at all at the state level.' Military intelligence estimates that Al Qaeda makes up only 2 percent to 3 percent of the enemy forces in Iraq, according to Jim Miklaszewski of NBC News. The bottom line: America has a commander in chief who can't even identify some 97 percent to 98 percent of the combatants in a war that has gone on longer than our involvement in World War II."
Rich, no surprise, seems to be misrepresenting reality here. Here's what Bush actually said about violence in Iraq, as reported by Rich's own handpicked authority, Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the New York Times : "There's a lot of sectarian violence taking place, fomented in my opinion because of these attacks by al Qaeda, causing people to seek reprisal. And we will work with the Maliki government to defeat these elements."
It takes some stretching to get from Bush's statement to Rich's conclusion that "Bush doesn't know what the truth is" and that "America has a commander in chief who can't even identify some 97 percent to 98 percent of the combatants in [Iraq]."