Does it still really surprise everyone?

The recent surprise on the part of the American public and our elected officials regarding how President George W. Bush and his administration members exaggerated stories concerning Iraq’s possession of weapons of mass destruction is rather baffling, if not altogether amusing. For all the voices now raised in protest, one fundamental point lingers in the past: No strong reason ever existed to believe Bush or his administration members in the first place.

In many ways, the exaggerations made regarding Iraq are old news, and I find the recent public skepticism hopeful but embarrassingly late. I know many people will say this is a cynical argument, disrespectful of Bush as commander in chief. Let me suggest that quite the opposite is true.

It is out of respect for the power made possible by the office of the president that the public should always be critical of information offered by any White House administration regarding most policies. It’s a bit late now, but the public should be extra vigilant concerning arguments advocating the use of military force. Just because the king says something is true doesn’t mean a person should not ask why or how.

Unfortunately, most U.S. citizens became too complacent regarding what Bush said about Iraq. I know many people made valiant attempts to explain the holes in numerous Bush administration arguments, but the skepticism never reached a critical mass.

And for those who wonder how they could have known that something seemed suspicious with the information Bush was using, here is one example: The New York Times ran a story by James Risen last March 23 titled “CIA Aides Feel Pressure in Preparing Iraqi Reports.” The story discusses how analysts felt pressured to make any number of points to confirm or support Bush administration arguments about Iraqi connections with al-Qaida, military capabilities – the list goes on. So while U.S. troops rolled into Iraq, stories continued to appear concerning CIA information and how it was used by the Bush administration.

All of this is to say that nothing the Bush administration does surprises me. Every time people begin expressing shock or discomfort with this or that policy, I wonder if the general public has read a newspaper over the last three years. So, for example, when people who supported the war in Iraq express: their concerns regarding the numbers of soldiers being killed and maimed in Iraq, I just shake my head.

What did people expect? The numbers of dead and injured military personnel are going to continue rising and there is no reason to expect a decline. To think otherwise is misguided.

So, as my own act of surprise pre-emption, here are some possible Bush administration developments I want to suggest. I will not be surprised to see Vice President Dick Cheney not on the Republican ticket in the fall. If, in fact, the various federal investigations looking into his business dealings and staff members begin to accelerate before the election, he will become more of a liability than he is worth. Cheney can always leave the White House for health reasons, so his exit is that much easier. Look for someone like Christine Todd Whitman, a moderate Republican, to be on the ticket.

I will also not be surprised to see a civil war erupt in Iraq among the country’s different factions. Bush will need bigger news over the summer.

Come August, during the Democratic National Convention, I will not be surprised to see Osama bin Laden captured by U.S. troops. The capture will obscure reporting about the Democratic convention and a build-up to the Republican National Convention in New York in September.

Finally, I will not be surprised to see the Democratic presidential candidate win the popular vote and lose the electoral vote to Bush. Two consecutive presidential administrations would be troubling, but given the conditions we’re living in, it’s not surprising.

John Troyer is a columnist. He welcomes comments at [email protected]