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White House to Author "Fill Right" Iraq Report for Petraeus

August 15, 2007

Among today's least surprising and most disturbing developments is the revelation from the Los Angeles Times that the Bush White House will author the much anticipated September 15 surge progress report for General David Petraeus. Despite President Bush's frequent claims along the lines of "I'm going to wait for David to come back - David Petraeus to come back and give us the report on what he sees," the assessment will actually be written the White House.
As for the content of the looming report, anyone who has ever used the Microsoft Excel spreadsheet program knows what's coming next. Americans should expect to see the old "Fill Right" trick. That is, when producing a long-term financial model or forecast, the Excel user in the absence of research, data, or just common sense, simply copies the value or formula from one cell (for, say, monthly or quarterly sales) to all the succeeding cells (months or quarters in ensuing years). The result is an impressive looking spreadsheet, but one whose projections are baseless and without foundation.

As the interim surge report made clear in July, President Bush like any failed CEO has been relying on the old fill-right gimmick since the Iraq war commenced. Starting in 2003, Bush simply selected the cell containing the phrase "We're Making Progress" and filled right:

"It's a different kind of war we fight. It's important for you to understand that. John understands that. You see, in the old days, if you destroyed tanks and airplanes, you knew you were making progress." (November 3, 2002)
"And so we're making progress. It's slowly but surely making progress of bringing the -- those who terrorize their fellow citizens to justice, and making progress about convincing the Iraqi people that freedom is real." (July 30, 2003)
"Turns out this is our hundredth day since major military operations have ended, ended in Iraq. And since then, we've made good progress." (August 8, 2003)
"They assured me that they were making good progress, that the Iraqi people are overwhelmingly pleased that Saddam is gone, that they do see a bright future, and they want us to -- they want to work with us." (Discussing conversations with Chalabi and Talabani, November 27, 2003)
"Having broken the Baathist regime, we face a remnant of violent Saddam supporters. Men who ran away from our troops in battle are now dispersed and attack from the shadows. These killers, joined by foreign terrorists, are a serious, continuing danger. Yet we're making progress against them." (2004 State of the Union Address, Ahmed Chalabi in attendance, January 20, 2004)
"Weeks such as we've had in Iraq make some doubt whether or not we're making progress. I understand that. It was a tough, tough period. But we are making progress." (April 13, 2004)
"They're trying to stop progress, because they understand what freedom means to their terrorist ambitions. And so we're making progress, you bet." (April 30, 2004)
"And people who feel like that they can wreak havoc on innocent Iraqis will be brought to justice in Iraq, either by Iraqi citizens and/or by coalition forces. And we're making progress" (May 5, 2004)
"We're making progress. Yet there still is much work to do." (May 24, 2004)
"A free Iraq will make America more secure. And we're making progress toward that goal." (June 17, 2004)
"We're making progress on the ground." (August 23, 2004)
"We are still -- we are still confronting serious violence from determined enemies. Yet, the Iraqi Interim Government, with American and coalition support, is making progress, week by week." (October 25, 2004)
"And so I -- the notion that somehow we're not making progress I just don't subscribe to." (January 26, 2005)
"And we're making progress. I've talked to General Casey quite frequently. And he keeps us abreast of the progress being made." (March 16, 2005)
"We're making progress toward the goal, which is, on the one hand, a political process moving forward in Iraq, and on the other hand, the Iraqis capable of defending themselves." (June 20, 2005)
"Our mission in Iraq, as I said earlier, is to fight the terrorists, is to train the Iraqis. And we're making progress training the Iraqis. Oh, I know it's hard for some Americans to see that progress, but we are making progress." (August 11, 2005)
"I'll remind the people that we're making progress on two fronts -- a political front." (August 23, 2005)
"We're making progress toward peace. We're making progress toward an ally that will join us in the war on terror, that will prevent al Qaeda from establishing safe haven in Iraq, and a country that will serve as an example for others who aspire to live in freedom" (October 16, 2005)
"Iraq is making steady progress in fighting terrorists, meeting political milestones, building democratic institutions, and standing up security forces." (from Bush's "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq," November 30, 2005)
"The training of the Iraqi police is an enormous task and, frankly, it hasn't always gone smoothly. Yet we're making progress." (January 10, 2006)
"I also said that for every act of violence there is encouraging progress in Iraq that's hard to capture on the evening news…No question that sectarian violence must be confronted by the Iraqi government and a better-trained police force. Yet we're making progress." (March 21, 2006)
"It's tough because people are trying to stop the advance of democracy. And I'm convinced we're making progress there." (April 4, 2006)
"The American people need to know we are making progress toward a goal of an Iraq that can defend itself, sustain itself and govern itself." (May 25, 2006)
"These people need to be stopped. They can't stand the thought of the Iraqis being able to worship freely. They want safe haven, and they've chosen Anbar as their place to achieve safe haven. We've got a lot of really fine troops fighting al Qaeda and we're making progress." (January 11, 2007)
"You know, the Iraq government has been in office about a year. And they're beginning to make some progress toward political benchmarks it has set, political benchmarks I support." (May 2, 2007)
"We're making progress in Operation Phantom Thunder." (June 28, 2007)
"I believe we can succeed and I believe we are making security progress that will enable the political tract to succeed, as well." (July 12, 2007)

UPDATE: The Satirical Political Report offers another analogy for Petraeus' coming cribbed report.

2 comments on “White House to Author "Fill Right" Iraq Report for Petraeus”

  1. That is hilarious. I bet we can use this template for virtually any report this administration


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

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