The blogosphere is a darker place with Dwight Meredith gone.
Well, at least his last piece was an excellent one, up to his usual standards, talking about the David Kay report and the various perspectives that Republican supporters and critics have on its likely contents. According to Dwight (and, originally, the Boston Globe), Kay is likely to announce that Saddam did not have WMDs, but had plans to reconstitute them on fairly short notice, "once freed of inspections and international sanctions".
Of course, that was about as likely as Bush selling the ranch and taking up modern dance.
Still, Dwight's piece hints at something that I wanted to bring out into the open- the relationship between Kay's report and Republican rhetoric. It's safe to say that the Republicans have known what Kay was going to bring out for a long time, and now that we have a pretty good idea what Kay is going to say, we finally have the explanation for the odd shift in rhetoric that has characterized Republicans lately.
I'm sure you've noticed it- everybody has. The shift from "WMDs" to "WMD programs" is something that's been noticed by Bush's critics and by the press corps. It's long been characterized as simply an attempt to bring down the bar, but the Kay report makes it pretty clear that the Republicans (and their media mouthpieces) haven't been simply lowering the bar, but setting a stage.
Although they've raised eyebrows with this shift, it's not going to automatically invalidate what they're saying in the eyes of the public, and those who believe they are liars anyway won't consider it anything new. (Bush true believers will simply go with it on the assumption that since he had WMDs, he obviously had WMD programs) It'll get filed away, and quickly forgotten or dismissed as "partisan bickering".
Then, of course, the Kay report comes out. That is the entire point of this "program" nonsense; it's so that Bush can claim that "he has the proof he needed all along". The press corps may not go along with it, but they'll be up against the Bush spin machine, that will trumpet Kay's report as true. And the thing is, Bush won't technically be incorrect- his latest claims were about "programs", and Kay's report will be about "programs", so he'll be immune to charges of falsehoods. Sure, people will point out that he's changed his tune, but that'll be old news, and too subtle a distinction to make it through the media gauntlet anyway.
The question, then, is whether it'll really matter. It'll probably give Bush one last boost, but then he has to deal with the situation now in Iraq chipping away at his popularity. I doubt he'll be able to so easily get away with fulfilling artificially lowered expectations in that case.