Caution: Stupid People At Work
Posted on April 2, 2003 Posted by John Scalzi 7 Comments
“White House spokesman Ari Fleischer, seeking to put the shortest stamp on the duration of the war, said today that the White House did not consider the war starting with the March 19 aerial attack that targeted a Hussein bunker. Rather, he said, the White House was considering March 20, when troops first entered Iraq, as the official start, followed by the beginning of the massive aerial assault a day later.” — “U.S. Smashes Through Iraqi Lines,” The Los Angeles Times, 4/2/2003
Just to be clear: Trying to assassinate a nation’s leader via guided missile is not an act of war.
I wonder which egghead over at the White House glommed on the idea that trimming 12 hours off the start of the war is going make that much of a perceptual difference to anyone. Probably the same fellow who had advised Rumsfeld on that “49 miles” thing.
They say a lot of dumb things like that. Fleischer made a comment at one press session before the war about how we weren’t trying to buy support from other countries (like Turkey with our kind, no-strings-attached offer of $24B in aid) because that kind of behavior was unacceptable. The entire press corps started laughing, and Ari just walked away from the podium after looking semi-peeved for a few seconds.
Do you ever get the feeling that Ari spends a lot of time up on the podium because everyone else took a look at the announcement and said “There’s no way I’m going to get up in front of an audience and say _that_”?
Ari Fleischer is doing quite a good job acting as the newsies lightning rod for this administration. If he didn’t exist, the press would have to make him up. Or focus on the real problems at the White House.
I hope they don’t try to make that official. I seem to recall something about that unless we are at war, we cannot perform “assasination actions”. So, if the war didn’t start until later, then the “decapitation attack” might get some people into trouble….
Ah, but we are not at war. We cannot declare war on Iraq because we don’t go to war with countries anymore. We liberate the populous from their repressive (and/or opressive) regimes. You have to sell the war to the public that includes 49 miles, shaving 12 hours, spinning it as liberation. We can liberate them back to the stone age as long as we aren’t being racist, anti-muslim, or viewed as blaming the citizens for the actions of their government. Whatever happened to the good ol’ days when Hitler was evil, so were the Nazis, and the German people were guilty by association.
Yes, the 49 miles is stupid. Yes, if Ari shaves one day of the length of the war and it lasts for 29 days rather than 30, it is stupid.
However, what this administration grasps, that plenty of other politicians don’t, is that those stupid things work. There is a psychological thing that resonates with people when you think “49” instead of “50,” just like $9.95 resonates with people better than $10. The administration isn’t shy about engaging in such PR schemes. Most of us here have too much intellectual pride to engage in such silliness (or we foist it off on the marketing department). Say what you want about this administation, but “intellectual pride” is not one of their issues (other sorts of pride is another matter).
Honestly folks. The war started 12 years ago. This is just phase 3.