Chutzpah on schedule: that's a little bit more like business as usual! As we should all know by now, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), true to its middle name, has pointed the Fickle Finger of Fate at the Bush administration (and we all know about it because a draft of their report was leaked to the Washington Post yesterday afternoon). The report, whose final draft will be delivered to Congress on Tuesday, assesses our progress in Iraq on the basis of eighteen target goals; and the bottom line of the leak is that only three of those target goals have been met.
This is where the chutzpah enters the picture, on the basis of a report filed on the BBC NEWS site early this morning. In the tradition of a mediocre Yale student whose primary academic activities consisted in bargaining his grade up to the level of a "gentleman's C," the White House is contesting the GAO findings. The reason I invoke the "gentleman's C" metaphor, however, is that, according to the White House version, eight of the target goals have been met. Those of us who still have some math skills left to our names will quickly note that this is still less than half of the target set, which usually falls short of the criteria for even a "gentleman's" C; but the mere fact that the Bush administration has been reduced to this kind of petty bargaining over such a serious matter is the hallmark of true chutzpah.
Since this is a "group award," there is also the question of who would be the best recipient on the part of the administration. While there are many who would like to see our President amass an entire shelf of these awards, I think the recipient should go to the man most responsible for putting a public face on all this petty bargaining (whose credentials include not just a previous award but an award for his extraordinary skill in meta-chutzpah), Tony Snow. Here is how the BBC reported the latest Snow job:
White House spokesman Tony Snow also said the GAO's conclusions were unrealistic.
He said the GAO set the bar for success too high and did not assess whether progress had been made towards the benchmarks.
"The real question that people have is, 'What's going on in Iraq?' Are we making progress? Militarily, is the surge having an impact? The answer is 'Yes'," he said.
This is the magical-realism world of Gabriel García Márquez where those who play the game are not obliged to agree on the rules. As just about anyone outside the Bush administration (and that includes our country's electorate) knows, the real question is not whether the surge is having an impact but what that impact is. This is not a yes-or-no question. Indeed, the complexity is such that is not even a scale-of-one-to-ten question. The only satisfactory answer will be one of goal-by-goal accountability of what has actually been done without any quibbling over whether those achievements reduce to "met," "partially met," or "not met." I would hope that anyone who takes the time to read the final draft of the GAO report will be able to answer the making-progress question far better than Snow has done so simplistically.