May 6, 2004

MICKEY KAUS gave Bush’s speech on the prisoner abuse case lukewarm reviews, but Sissy Willis reports that it seems to be playing better in the Arab world. She notes praise not only from Alhurra, which is, after all, an American-supported network, but also from the far less America-friendly Al-Arabiya. As I said before, this is a disaster, but played right, this can also be a “teachable moment.”

But we have to make it so. I don’t know whether Bush’s apology was enough, and I certainly don’t think he should do, a la Bill Clinton, do it over and over again. But — especially as we see stories like these, suggesting that there were bigger issues left unresolved by the Administration — it’s important to stress what both of the Arab journalists quoted above said: that follow-through is what really matters here. This isn’t something you get rid of with a sound bite.

An Abizaid speech — followed up by swift, decisive, and obvious action — would be a good idea. Or even a Rumsfeld apology speech. It’s all very well to argue perspective and to note that it was, in fact, the U.S. military that moved first on this. But the world will be judging us, fairly or not, by what comes next.

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