Posted on Thursday 30 November 2006

Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki of Iraq and King Abdullah II of Jordan abruptly backed out of a meeting with President Bush on Wednesday, leaving the White House scrambling to explain why a carefully planned summit meeting had suddenly been cut from two days to one.

The decision occurred on a day that a classified White House memorandum expressing doubts about Mr. Maliki was disclosed and after Iraqi officials loyal to a powerful Shiite cleric said they were suspending participation in the Maliki government because he had ignored their request to cancel the Bush meeting entirely.

The president and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice were already aboard Air Force One, on the way to Amman from Riga, Latvia, where they had been attending a NATO summit meeting, when they received the news by telephone from the United States ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad. The White House insisted Mr. Bush was not upset and had not been snubbed.
I was trying to recall if this Administration had ever admitted  anything being a problem – 9/11, maybe the midterm election results. It takes something really big. It certainly wasn’t Hadley’s well-timed memo or pressure from the Shiites that lead to the snubbing rescheduling.

Perhaps, it does have a real meaning. Maybe the rest of the inhabited world is figuring out what Americans seem to know but don’t talk about much. George W. Bush is irrelevant. There are two epicenters of power in the United States, Karl Rove who musters the political power by manipulating the sheep of the Religious Right, and Dick Cheney who wields the power of policy-making from the background. The President is less than a figurehead. Why bother to talk to him? He speaks poorly, doesn’t listen, and is not the author of any decisions to date. The oft-made analogy to the children’s story, The Emperor’s New Clothes, is no longer just an analogy, it’s a documentary.

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