Don't assume that bad news is bad and good news is good. In his latest Against the Grain commentary, CBSNews.com's Dick Meyer shares some wisdom from the president.
Sometimes a big 100-watt goes off over my tired, graying head and I see things in a whole new light. When it's the president of the United States who turns on the light, well, it makes me proud to be an American.
Thanks to some philosophy President Bush shared the other day, I realized that I've been looking at this whole Iraq thing bass-ackwards. The sorry truth is, my whole perspective on stuff like current events is pretty gloom-and-doom and entrenchified. I think that's the word.
My big epiphany came after bad guys in Iraq bombed police stations and a Red Cross facility and killed about 40 people. I was very discouraged, but then the president spoke.
"The more successful we are on the ground, the more these killers will react," the zen President said. "The more progress we make on the ground, the more free the Iraqis become, the more electricity is available, the more kids that are going to school, the more desperate these killers become, because they can't stand the thought of a free society."
Ding, ding, ding – of course that's right.
Do you realize how bad things would really be if there were no suicide bombings, guerrilla attacks and anti-American violence in Iraq? It would be a sure sign that the enemies of freedom were kickin' back and getting ready for Ramadan because they knew we weren't fixing up Iraq right. That's scary. If we weren't making such good progress, the lack of violence and slaughter would a sure sign of trouble.
The real disaster would come if we found Saddam Hussein. Disaster-city, big time. It's great that he's still on the lam because it just shows how impressed the chief evil-doer is with our reconstruction of Iraq. If things were going to the dogs, Saddam would turn himself in, knowing the masses would rescue him and return him to his palaces. Remember this the next time you're stuck at the water cooler with a gloom-and-doom guy like I used to be: a free Saddam means freedom in Iraq is becoming entrenchified.
We also better hope we don't nab Osama. The minute that guy gets plunked into a dungeon in Gitmo, forget about it. That will be proof positive that al Qaeda is so confident that our war on terror is terrible that they'll let us capture their fearless leader as a taunt and a distraction. You see the logic here? If I were to bump into Osama at Starbucks this afternoon, it would be my duty to buy him a latte and a Halloween mask and send him back into hiding. Same with Mullah Omar. And all those weapons of mass destruction.
This kind of geopolitical theory isn't just for foreign stuff. Take the California wildfires. Sure, they're a short-term inconvenience. But in a year everything will be fine even though hundreds of thousands acres were scorched a little bit. It just proves that God wants us to drill for oil in the wilds of Alaska because it's just not a big deal. In fact, all this smoke and pollution is just a reminder that smoke and pollution are a part of nature and all this EPA stuff is just mumbo-jumbo.
Some of the best news lately came from the folks who do the census. Not only did they find the official poverty rate rose from 11.7 percent in 2001 to 12.1 percent in 2002, they discovered that 2.4 million more people didn't have any health insurance. First of all, this does a pretty good job of explaining why poor people are so full of sour grapes. But the statistics show that the war to make rich people richer is making progress. And when poor people realize that the rich are getting richer, they'll realize that America is the land of opportunity.
So long as the economy doesn't heat up, the president will do just fine in '04. And bad stuff will be good.
Dick Meyer, the Editorial Director of CBSNews.com, is based in Washington. For many years, he was a political and investigative producer for The CBS News Evening News With Dan Rather.
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Against the Grain
By Dick Meyer
Copyright 2003 CBS. All rights reserved.