The Decider, Hard at Work

It’s no secret that President Bush doesn’t take well to criticism (or even actual non-filtered news), and doesn’t do much to break out of the groupthink bubble down on Pennsylvania Ave. But now for some reason the administration has decided to start pretending that they seek outside counsel. Back in June, the president held a much-ballyhooed “war council” at Camp David that was portrayed as a broad-minded president seeking to mix it up with a variety of opposing intellectuals. The scholars on that panel were

Frederick Kagan, AEI, full-throated neocon

Eliot Cohen, SAIS, full-throated neocon

Robert Kaplan, The Atlantic, advocate of American empire

Michael Vickers, former CIA, vocal war proponent turned tactical critic

So much for intellectual diversity at that summit. But now the White House is touting another panel of critics, held earlier this week, that is supposed to help Bush figure out what the heck’s going on in Iraq. Here’s how spinmeister Tony Snow spun the meeting:

What the president does in sessions like this is invite people to express very openly their candid views on things. They play a role in the sense that they add to the president’s knowledge and understanding of the region, they introduce new ideas, and they allow him to question closely people who spend the vast majority of their time studying issues that are of keen concern to him, and, at this point, to the country.

We do not invite in “amen choruses.’’ What you do is you invite smart people in who have different points of view… And that’s a very useful service. You don’t want people who are simply saying exactly the same thing.

Right, you wouldn’t want them to say exactly the same thing. But trouble is, it seems that The Decider didn’t even want the experts’ views. Here’s Vali Nasr, one of the participants in the recent panel, on what he did and didn’t contribute:

I didn’t give an opinion about policy. They didn’t ask if it was a good policy or not.

I wonder why.