Does the President of the United States listen to anyone in the Intelligence Community? I know he doesn’t read newspapers. He doesn’t “get” news, prefers to know things his own way. But how can he be so far removed from knowing what the CIA knows?

Bob Woodward writes in a July 12 article for The Washington Post:

Early on the morning of Nov. 13, 2006, members of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group gathered around a dark wooden conference table in the windowless Roosevelt Room of the White House.

For more than an hour, they listened to President Bush give what one panel member called a “Churchillian” vision of “victory” in Iraq and defend the country’s prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki. “A constitutional order is emerging,” he said.

Okay. That really sounds great. A new world order is on the horizon. Soon, and very soon, it will all be over. Peace is but a heartbeat away.

And then the CIA reported to the Iraq Study Group, in the same room, the same day, just a short time later:

Two hours later, around the same conference table, CIA Director Michael V. Hayden painted a starkly different picture for members of the study group. Hayden said “the inability of the government to govern seems irreversible,” adding that he could not “point to any milestone or checkpoint where we can turn this thing around,” according to written records of his briefing and the recollections of six participants.

“The government is unable to govern,” Hayden concluded. “We have spent a lot of energy and treasure creating a government that is balanced, and it cannot function.”

Okay. So, that really sounds bad. And who was the skinny guy sitting in the same room just a few hours before, and what Magic 8 Ball was he using to divine the future? Did Director Hayden ever talk to him? Because, gee, his story sounded a heck of a lot nicer. The CIA is always being so, well, realistic.

And Condoleeza Rice played along too:

Asked by former Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O’Connor, a member of the study group, if she was aware of the CIA’s grim evaluation of Iraq, Rice replied, “We are aware of the dark assessment,” but quickly added: “It is not without hope.”

No, because, like, losing hope would be bad, and we can’t do that. But the spin has already begun. You see, Hayden didn’t really say all that. The Iraq Study Group just misunderestimated what Hayden said.


But O’Connor heard the scary man say the bad things too:

O’Connor, a Republican, also confirmed Hayden’s assessment. She said she didn’t agree with his conclusion that it was irreversible, but she said she was pessimistic.

“It is a dire situation,” she said. “I don’t think it has gotten any better. It just breaks your heart. . . . Iraqi people are dying, American soldiers are dying. So far it does not seem we have achieved any kind of security there.”

Yes, it breaks your heart.  And it should. How many different ways can we spin disaster?