An "excuse presidency." A "fantasy world of spin." "I would have done everything differently." "Reckless mistakes." "Colossal failures of judgment." "Stubborn incompetence." "Twenty-three different rationales" for Bush's folly in Iraq. "We have traded a dictator for a chaos that has left America less secure."

The zingers lambasting Bush's incompetent execution of his idiotic determination to finish Daddy's war are coming fast and furious from John Kerry's mouth these days, and not a moment too soon. Indeed, they may be coming too late. But at least they're coming. Finally.

It's all Iraq, all the time now. Get used to it, because you'll be hearing a lot more of the same for the next six weeks. I don't know, given their late start, whether the Kerry campaign will succeed in trapping the Bush mendacity machine in its own awesome edifice of distortion and self-aggrandizing, reality-eviscerating hype about Iraq, but it's worth a try. John Kerry finally has a message. It's not a particularly uplifting or edifying one--it boils down to the assertion that Bush is an incompetent ideologue who has undermined American security and our standing in the world--but it happens to be true.

Even better, it fits the news coming out of Iraq: bombings, beheadings, pitched street battles in Baghdad.

That news is so bad that it's not just John Kerry who is now on the antiwarpath. Few honest observers can now fail to concede that Iraq is not only a serious and growing mess, but also that we are losing the war there. Chuck Hagel admitted as much last week, and he's no muddle-headed, Seattle Weekly-style tofu-and-patchouli peacenik. He's a conservative Republican senator from Nebraska. John McCain, the Arizona Republican, is redeeming himself for his cynical embrace of Bush in recent months--he still harbors presidential ambitions--by again warning that the situation in Iraq is dire. Dick Lugar, the Republican senator from Indiana respected for his foreign-policy expertise, is blasting the administration's "incompetence" in its handling of the war.

Bob Novak, the right-wing columnist, wrote on Monday that the president's foreign-policy advisors, in an implicit admission that Iraq is lost, now advocate pulling American out troops next year and standing aside as the country devolves into civil war. Perhaps that's true, perhaps not, but one thing we know for sure is that in June the CIA handed Bush its grim assessment that the best of three possible scenarios for Iraq was that the country would remain violent and unstable in the throes of a simmering anti-American insurgency but that the situation there wouldn't get significantly worse. Of course, things have gotten significantly worse since then.

Some months ago, the New Republic published a prescient piece that pointed out that the Bush administration's disingenuous effort to elide the Iraq war and the war on terror held the potential to backfire. As the situation in Iraq degenerated, he pointed out, the Democrats would be able to argue that the president was losing the war on terror.

Guess what? The president is losing the war on terror. Even the dimwitted deferentialists in the establishment commentariat, habituated to shamelessly suckling at the withered dugs of establishment power, are beginning to figure it out. And where they go, the craven hacks in the Democratic establishment follow. They too have clued into the fact that Kerry has to challenge our Bungler-in-Chief on his rosy rhetoric about his unraveling war.

So the fight is joined. Bush has trapped himself in the paralyzing molasses of his own false optimism about the war. Let him keep saying things are going well there, as the video footage proves the extent of his delusion. The first step to solving a problem is admitting it exists. The Kerry campaign recognized it had a message problem, and has forcefully moved to correct it. The Bush administration still doesn't appear to know it has a truth problem. Let's hope it stays that way.

A SHAMELESS PLUG: On Thursday, September 23, I will be participating in an election debate, sponsored by KTTH 770, at the New Life Church at 15711 152nd Avenue in Renton. Michael Medved is moderating, and Mike McKay, the former U.S. Attorney, is in the hopeless position of defending Bush. It would be nice if the entire audience didn't consist of right-wing fruitcakes, so come out and watch: It's free, and doors open at 5:00 p.m.

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