TAKING WAR SERIOUSLY….Former White House speechwriter David Frum panned George Bush’s latest Iraq speech yesterday, saying, “By now it should be clear that President Bush’s words on the subject of Iraq have ceased connecting with the American public.” His basic complaint: you can’t announce a big speech and then say the same old thing over and over again. It ain’t working.

I suppose it’s only natural that a speechwriter would focus more on what Bush says than what he does, but even so it’s telling that Frum seems to have no substantive advice for his former boss. Do conservatives really buy their own propaganda that things are going swimmingly in Iraq and it’s only the liberal media that’s making it look bad? Or do they genuinely not have any ideas?

Well, I’ve got some ideas to run up the flagpole:

  • Make the Pentagon’s goals for training Iraqi security forces public. “My fellow citizens, we’re going to provide monthly reports on how we’re doing against these goals. You can hold us to them.”

  • Encourage enlistment in the Army and Marines. “To today’s youth I say, ‘You can become our country’s greatest generation.’ Join up now and help us in our greatest struggle: ridding the world of terrorist killers and the people who support them.”

  • Get rid of the military’s ban on gay soldiers. “We’re at war, and that means we need everyone who’s willing and able to fight. Gay or straight, black or white, male or female, if you’re willing to enlist, our military opens its arms to you.”

  • Propose a genuine energy independence plan. “We need more efficient cars. We need new sources of energy to power them. We need a tax on oil use. We need better mass transit. I’ll be submitting a bill to Congress next week.”

Of course, all of these things pose problems. Not only do they incorporate a tacit admission that things in Iraq aren’t progressing as well as Bush has been claiming, they all offend some interest group or other. Being held accountable might make the Pentagon look bad. Asking for enlistments might embarrass hawks who prefer not to interrupt their rise up the corporate ladder. Welcoming gays into the military would enrage the Christian right. And energy independence would piss off a whole array of corporate interests that Bush depends on.

Still, if Bush isn’t willing to take even a single one of these modest steps and run the risk of annoying even a single one of the interest groups that support him, why should any of the rest of us take his “central front in the war on terror” seriously? Obviously he doesn’t.

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