Like LBJ, President Bush must reckon with the reality of a war going badlyPresident George W. Bush has an object lesson in a predecessor. Lyndon Baines Johnson - another Texan who presided over another war - failed to level with the American people about how badly the Vietnam War was going. Johnson's dishonesty was dubbed his credibility gap."

President Bush has enjoyed a measure of Teflon on the Iraq War. It is difficult to imagine some of his predecessors getting away with launching a war on false pretenses, declaring victory, losing another 800 soldiers and having so much popular support.

Eventually the Iraq bill must be paid. That will involve money and lives, and it will involve a reckoning with reality.

Virtually all political leaders have a hard time reckoning with a reality they don't want to believe or accept. That was true with Johnson. It's repeating itself with President Bush.

The intelligence reports of last July that were made public last week by The New York Times demonstrate the kind of unvarnished information that Bush has been receiving.

Republican and Democratic senators - including John McCain and Chuck Hagel - are waiting for the Bush White House to acknowledge what they know to be true. They are waiting for the Bush defense apparatus to run the war more competently.

You don't have to be an intelligence sleuth to recognize that the war in Iraq is going very badly. It is also difficult to see how this foreign adventure ends well for America.

The jarring inconsistency between reality and the version that the president professes in public is beginning to haunt Mr. Bush, just as Johnson's refrain about a "light at the end of the tunnel" eventually rang hollow. Is Mr. Bush merely trying to win re-election by calming the electorate, or is he oblivious to how badly the war is going?

The Bush White House prefers to spin events and information. With war and combat, there comes a time when the spin cycle rings hollow. Eventually, the public becomes less gullible.

Mr. Bush likes clear-cut situations that involve good and evil. He would like to replicate a gunslinger. The White House puts on a good public relations show, but it's losing credibility. It's later than the president or his handlers think.


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