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Published: Monday, 12/15/2008

Talking point blues

WHAT is the foremost need of an American president who has presided over the collapse of the housing market and major financial companies, a recession that claimed over half a million jobs in November, one war begun on false pretenses while another was neglected, Katrina, Abu Ghraib, Plamegate, and more?

Talking points, that's what.

No, this isn't a scenario for a comedy sketch but an actual guide put together by the White House to promote George W. Bush's "many accomplishments."

The document, titled "Speech Topper on the Bush Record," would be a hoot if there was anything even remotely amusing about the dire shape of the nation after eight years of Mr. Bush. But the two-page memo, sent to cabinet members and other high-ranking federal officials, is so out of touch with reality that it is more disturbing than funny.

In the Bush wonderland, where up is down and vice versa, the talking points blissfully pass off fantasy for fact, extolling the supposed triumphs of the two-term President while omitting any reference to the current economic meltdown, a pair of fruitless wars, official eavesdropping, or the ethical lapses and convictions of key members of his administration.

Instead, for officials who may be stumped at summing up the boss's record, the suggestions include boasting that Mr. Bush "kept the American people safe" after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, set the stage for years of job growth through his tax cuts, and, above all, maintained the "honor and dignity of his office." If the latter is a reference to not having an affair with a White House intern like his predecessor, we'll give him that one.

But there's no honor or dignity in secretly spying on Americans, thereby trampling on the Constitution, or sending more than 4,200 U.S. soldiers to their death, with 30,000-plus wounded, in an unnecessary war.

By nearly any measure but his own, the actual defining issues of the Bush presidency - war on two fronts and a devastating recession bordering on a depression - are hardly worth boasting about.

His "mission accomplished" was in setting the country back years. Nobody, we agree, was more successful in that regard.

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