Hearts, Minds And The Credibility Gap

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Recent polls have shown us that the American people are becoming distrustful of the Bush administration and their ability to prosecute the Iraq war and the war on terrorism.

Now dem-blogger Digby points out an interesting parallel to the Vietnam War and why credibility matters.

A few people have e-mailed me today to tip me to harping on this for months, as my regular readers know. In fact, I wrote about it again the day before Bush’s speech last week when I heard him say “We wanna WIN” at that press conference at the border. I am not in the least bit surprised that the speech originated with this fellow: they are desperate to believe that he’s right and all they have to do is sell victory to get their poll numbers back up.

This advisor, Peter Feaver and a partner Christopher Gelpi produced a study that purports to prove that Vietnam wasn’t “lost” because of mounting casualties; it was because the American people became convinced we were losing when the political leadership became irresolute. I’m not qualified to comment on the data which I haven’t seen anyway, except to say as someone who was there at the time that this is bullshit. The problem was the “credibility gap.” Ordinary citizens just didn’t believe a word the government said about the war after a certain point because it had been pumping the country full of horseshit happy talk for years. Nobody knew what the truth was, except that the war just seemed to go on and on forever, kids were dying in great numbers with no real progress and no real purpose.

Mr Feaver seems to believe that the country still trusts George W. Bush. But they have to be delusionary to believe they could sell a war on a “grave and gathering danger” of “a smoking gun in the shape of a mushroom cloud” and then think that they could maintain their credibility when it turns out that there was actually — nothing. They shot the moon and lost.

I disagree that they’ve lost, but they’re certainly losing…that much is for sure. And I do believe that the only way we’ll be able to turn the tide and finish what we started is by bringing some reasonable discourse back to the table. In other words, the blustery rhetoric is tired and the American people are telling everybody in poll after poll that we need to change course where credibility is concerned.

But is it too late? I certainly hope not. I don’t think you can understand how I wish that Bush and company would not act as if they’re going to be judged 20 years from now.

Thoughts?

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