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White House: Bush Deserves "Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations" on Iraq

August 30, 2007

Discussing "accountability" for education results in New Orleans yesterday, President Bush reiterated one of his favorite sound bites, "It's what I call challenging the soft bigotry of low expectations." Alas, not when it comes to the President himself and certainly not when the subject is progress in Iraq.
A plea to extend the soft bigotry of low expectations to the President is exactly what the Bush White House requested today in response to the devastating assessment of Iraq progress detailed in a draft GAO report. White House spokesperson Dana Perino crystallized the need to grade Bush on a steep a curve, claiming "A bar was set so high, that it was almost not to be able to be met." Press Secretary Tony Snow also insisted that the pass/fail standard, which no doubt served Bush so well while an undergraduate at Yale, should not apply to the 18 Congressionally-mandated metrics for Iraq:

"If you're trying to do an overall judgment on what's going on in Iraq, the idea that somehow your standard is everything completed, or nothing completed seems to me to be a pretty high standard to meet. On the other hand, if you're trying to figure out, are you making progress toward the goals that you have set out, that's probably the proper way to look at it."

That approach to moving the goalposts resulted in President Bush's comically rosy July interim surge report that even some of his most reliable supporters found laughable. Coming just two weeks before General Petraeus' Iraq surge progress report, the draft analysis from the Government Accountability Office paints a much darker picture of the situation in Iraq. On July 12 in his interim surge status report, President Bush trumpeted "we're making progress" based on checking off 8 out of 18 Congressionally-mandated milestones. In contrast, the GAO analysis concluded that only three of the benchmarks had been reached. (For more details and a comparison chart between the two assessments, visit here.)
But when the report card is this bad, the President's handlers protest, Bush deserves extra credit points. Both Snow ("Well, look, it's no secret that many of the benchmarks have not been met") and Perino ("I think we have said they have not met the benchmarks") acknowledged the shortcomings of the Iraqi government and the surge. But Bush, they argue, should get credit for positive developments in Al Anbar province unrelated to his surge plan. As Snow attempted to explain, "among the benchmarks are not the fact that Sunni Iraqis have, in fact, turned against al Qaeda."
Sadly for the administration, the reality on the ground in Iraq is not kind. Which is why the Pentagon is already hard at work to revamp (read: doctor) some of the GAO's conclusions. Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morell admitted as much, explaining, "We have provided the GAO with information which we believe will lead them to conclude that a few of the benchmark grades should be upgraded from 'not met' to 'met.'"
At the end of the day, the situation in Iraq is grim by any objective measure. But then again, objectives measures are what President Bush uses to judge minorities and the poor here in the United States. They don't apply to him when it comes to Iraq.
That's what low expectations are for.

One comment on “White House: Bush Deserves "Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations" on Iraq”


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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