Good god. Now Bush has trouble even getting his friends to talk to him.
"The first meeting in a scheduled two-day summit between President Bush and Prime minister Nuri al-Maliki of Iraq," reported the NYT, "was canceled at the last minute today, against the backdrop of threats by a radical Shiite cleric to boycott the Maliki government and the disclosure of a classified White House memo that was highly critical of Mr. Maliki."
Some are saying the White House deliberately leaked the classified memo as a less than subtle shot over Maliki's bow prior to high-level discussions. That may be, but if true, the tactic was a spectacular flop on several fronts.
For starters, Maliki's pique at the memo's personally humiliating contents and disclosure only whiplashed as a personal humiliation of Bush. The prime minister's no-show at the kick-off confab was a public refutation of the president's attempt at looking tough -- and in terms of leverage, a tough posture was just about the last card Bush had left to play.
Second, the memo's disclosed contents gutted the next day's talks of any fresh substance. The summit was billed as an eyeball-to-eyeball sorting out of an unsteady power relationship, but if Bush had anything new to bring to the table as an eyeball-opener, so much for the surprise. Maliki was permitted to come loaded for bear. If the memo's disclosure was a leak with the highest approval, it was a damn foolish one.
Furthermore, the principal danger to Iraq's "government" was not only not averted, but exacerbated. The Bela al-Lugosi of Iraqi power politics, the lugubrious Moktada al-Sadr, was treated to a public display of the White House's discontent and frustration with Maliki -- one that stripped bare two paper tigers. The overt rift surely thrilled and emboldened Mr. Sadr, whose subsequent walkout from Parliament -- as promised, should the summit go forward -- was pretty much the last nail in the bloody coffin that is Iraq.
In short, forget the controversy over whether the memo was leaked. The summit itself was a doomed proposition. It guaranteed that Bush would take incoming from all sides now.
Which is precisely what's happening even at home -- literally his own home. One of the country's newly elected U.S. senators was seen ducking and hiding from POTUS at a White House reception, but ultimately James Webb ran out of luck.
As has been widely reported, Bush immediately -- characteristically -- asked the worst possible question he could put to Webb. "How's your boy?" who happens to be stuck in Iraq, courtesy Mr. Bush.
"I'd like to get them out of Iraq, Mr. President," Webb answered more inclusively.
"That's not what I asked you" said Bush, obviously relishing the opportunity to piss off yet another potential ally. "How's your boy?"
"That's between me and my boy, Mr. President," Webb retorted, openly disrespecting the most deservedly disrespected man on Earth.
Webb later revealed "that he was so angered by this that he was tempted to slug the commander-in-chief," which, sadly, was a missed opportunity for Webb and an admiring world. Jury nullification at his criminal trial would have reigned supreme.
Bush slapped Maliki, Maliki slapped him right back. Bush jabbed Webb. Webb jabbed him right back. Bush has isolated and alienated himself from the planet. The planet welcomes and encourages his isolation and alienation. Seemingly no one cares any longer what or who Mr. Bush is.
If freedom is indeed just another word for nothing left to lose, Bush now has it in spades. And given the hardware and manpower still at his disposal, that's a scary thought.