THEY must take us for fools. It's what some call the Rovewellian way. Armed with bullet points on truth-bending and bogus claims, politicians figure they can win over any audience with enough conviction. Throw in the trappings of high office with appropriate pomp and patriotic backdrops, and anything the powerful utter must be gospel.
At least that's the way it's been for the last six years. Karl Rove is the GOP's guiding light, finessing fallacy into acceptable political framework.
And the propaganda patented by the esteemed political operative of the Bush Administration has gone largely unchallenged. Until now.
The fingerprints of the master schemer are all over the latest White House push to bolster the President's Iraq war strategy. But now people see through the charade.
Must be a little jarring for Mr. Rove to have his inspired evangelism picked apart so quickly. The backlash was immediate after a recent congressional stunt in Baghdad crafted to spotlight the early successes of the President's "surge" in troops.
A delegation led by Sen. John McCain decided to support the claim with an outing in the capital city orchestrated to look like a walk in the park. But their transparent effort to spin "the full picture about what's happening" in Baghdad came off bordering on the absurd.
Wearing bulletproof vests, Senator McCain and colleagues boldly chucked their helmets and went on a shopping spree in a city market. But unlike ordinary Iraqis, the congressmen took extraordinary measures for protection that included an armored convoy, guarded by more than a 100 heavily armed troops, five hovering attack helicopters, and strategically placed sharpshooters on nearby rooftops.
Local traffic was also redirected and access to the market restricted so as not to disrupt the plans of the entourage. Afterward, safely inside the fortified Green Zone, Mr. McCain effused about the warmth and resilience of the Iraqis in a market described as a safe, bustling place full of hopeful and welcoming merchants.
Security was improving in the capital thanks to the troop surge and the vigilant lawmakers had proof. An ebullient Mike Pence, Republican representative from Indiana, even went so far as to compare Baghdad's Shorja market to "a normal outdoor market in Indiana in the summertime."
The ludicrous show put on by the administration cheerleaders would almost be comedic were it not for the carnage rocking Iraq. The next day outraged Iraqi vendors in Shorja erupted in disbelief over the delegation's rosy depictions of their life.
"What are they [congressmen] talking about?" asked Ali Jassim Faiyad, owner of an electrical appliances shop. "The security procedures were abnormal. They paralyzed the market when they came. This was only for the media."
Baghdad's biggest and oldest market has been bombed at least six times in the past few months. In February at least 61 people were killed there and many more wounded in a coordinated attack that involved two vehicle bombs and a roadside bomb.
In recent weeks snipers hidden in Shorja's bazaar have killed several people. Safe as an outdoor market in Indiana? "They were just making fun of us," fumed another merchant. "We are being killed by the dozens every day because of them."
On the day Mr. McCain expressed his cautious optimism for the President's war strategy, six American soldiers were killed. The preceding month more than 600 Iraqis died in the spiraling sectarian violence fanned by armed insurgents, militias, and al-Qaeda in Iraq.
Well over 3,200 U.S. troops have lost their lives in the low-grade civil war and thousands more are being sent to die. Any stability at the hands of the occupying force is temporary at best.
But Washington seems willing to play for time no matter the toll. Meanwhile, the military is stretched to the breaking point. Some troops are on their third and fourth tours in Baghdad.
Many are being rotated back to the war front ahead of schedule to meet surging demands. The bombings and bloodshed are actually escalating in some parts of Iraq with American soldiers increasingly becoming targets.
And still the President sticks to his Rovewellian scripts of staying the course with no strings attached. Still his vice president harps about emboldening the enemy with deadlines.
Still the Pollyana-ish John McCain suggests it's safe to walk the streets in Baghdad - provided you have VIP air and ground support.
But the gig is up. So is tolerance for taking fools at their word.