Column Date 2007-01-07

What are they smoking in Washington?

You have to read this carefully – very, very carefully -- to believe it.

When asked by Newsweek magazine whether the fact that the US. Government has not found Osama bin Laden should be termed a failure, Frances Fragos Townsend, Bush homeland security advisor, replied:

“It’s a success that hasn’t occurred yet.”

Good grief! This goes way beyond ”spin” – all the way to never-never land.

I.F. Stone, a journalist who loved digging into Washington dirt, said it best:

“All governments lie,” he said, “but disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out.”

Ms. Townsend’s statement has nothing to do with reality, of course. It’s simply the response of a government bureaucrat who will happily tell you that black is white, if her boss asks her to.

In other words, it’s exactly what George Orwell, in his book '1984,' predicted was going to happen to the world.

Assuming this is truly the way things work today, here’s the Orwellian version of what’s happening in America, in the year 2007:

Yes, our country still has 8,000,000 children without any kind of health insurance, and we’ve known about the problem for decades, but our policy is clearly a success that hasn’t happened yet.

Those tax breaks for the obscenely wealthy? Don’t worry, they’ll trickle down to you any day now -- we’re all about to be rich. In fact, you might say that the golden age for the working man is waiting, breathlessly, right there in the wings, to occur.

Pollution? We’ve got our “Clean Air” Act working for your benefit. The name is all you need to know.

You may have heard some nay-sayers claim that our medical system is a mindless disaster, wasting billions every year, but the seeds of a new strategy have been planted and will eventually bloom. (Just give our private insurance companies time to work things out.)

And forcing our children to take standardized tests hasn’t been a failure – it’s given us millions of kids who are the best in the world at...taking standardized tests! We’re #1 -- isn’t that something to be proud of?

Orwell would also approve of using old words in new ways. The word “surge” seems to be in vogue recently.

The new plan to win the war in Iraq seems to hinge on sending a “surge” of troops over there. Which, in simple English, means we’re sending a lot more of our kids off to war. (We used to call this “escalating the war.”)

The new, improved strategy behind this “surge” is, of course...that is to say...ummm...well, you know...a successful strategy will appear before we know it.

Clearly, they’re smoking a lot of hashish in Washington.

But the big question is, do we really believe what they tell us these days? If we do, then we can rejoice in the following:

The Presidency of George W. Bush is not a colossal failure, but a success that hasn’t occurred yet.

Pass the hashish.

©2007 Peter Tannen