We live in peculiar times when good news is bad news and bad news is good.
Take the Monday Surprise. At 2:26 a.m. EDT, as most Americans were sleeping, sovereignty passed quietly from the Coalition Provisional Authority to the new Iraqi provisional government. Two days ahead of schedule.
Good news, right? A noble goal realized, yes? Not if your goal is to unseat President George W. Bush, in which case bad news is good news.
Among those for whom the news is good: the United States of America, the Muslim world, Bush, the Republican Party and, most important, the Iraqi people. Honorable mention goes to U.S. Administrator L. Paul Bremer, for whom vicarious glee is appropriate.
Bremer, who has spent that past 13 months in Iraq toiling to create order out of chaos, handed over a formal document conveying authority to the new Iraqi leadership, as well as a letter from Bush requesting formal diplomatic relations, and left the country with handshakes and waves. Not exactly the image of Americans evacuating Saigon. Didn't someone say "quagmire?"
In Istanbul, where Bush and European leaders were attending the NATO summit, Bush read a short note from National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, which began: "Mr. President, Iraq is sovereign.
Shortly thereafter, Bush declared: "The Iraqi people have their country back. . We have kept our word."
Whereupon, stock markets rallied in the United States, Asia and Europe, and gas prices continued sliding, down 13 cents a gallon since last month.
Every sane person knows that all this good news comes anointed with asterisks, and footnotes, and 10 index pages under the heading, "Yes, but." There are a thousand ways things still could go wrong in Iraq, but surely Americans are entitled to enjoy a few hours of relief, hope and optimism.
But celebration isn't a likely option for those who want to defeat Bush more than they want American success abroad. A short list of those for whom successful Iraqi sovereignty is not such good news would include: the radical Islamist world, terrorists, al-Qaida, Michael Moore, George Soros, John F. Kerry, moveon.org and the Democratic Party.
If you had to pick a team, which would you prefer: one who prays for victory or one who prays for defeat? Of course it's possible to hope the best for the Iraqi people and also to hope the worst for Bush, which point of view gets organized this way:
"I hope we've turned a corner, but obviously I think we need a change in presidents to really turn the corner."
Those are the words of Wendy Sherman, a former State Department counselor in the Clinton administration, speaking Monday to CNN's Wolf Blitzer.
Not to pick on Sherman, but she's a convenient example of how schadenfreude sometimes masquerades as diplomacy. Loosely translated, here's what Sherman was really saying:
Bush overthrew a brutal dictatorship; arrested and detained Saddam Hussein, soon to be handed over to Iraqi courts; killed the tyrant's murderous sons; restored or invented infrastructure while safeguarding Iraq's oil wells; and created and installed a new provisional government in just over a year following 13 chaotic months of insurgent attacks, with little international support and daily assaults by the media and the far left, while apparently preventing new terror attacks on American soil.
But he's got to go. Why? Well, because he's a Republican.
Even as I type, a CNN Insta-poll says a majority of Americans have little faith in Iraq's future. Yet another recent poll of 2,200 Iraqi households by an Iraqi firm offers a different perspective: Half of Iraqis interviewed believe Iraq is headed in the right direction; 65 percent think Iraq will be better off a year from now; 73 percent "believe the handover of authority to the Interim government will improve the current situation."
Such optimism following decades of tyranny, war and terror may be explained several ways, including the fact that Iraqis lived the war rather than had it interpreted for them by the American media. And possibly, they've caught wind of their reborn nation's new administrative law, which establishes inter alia that the people of Iraq are sovereign and free with rights of free expression, justice, thought and conscience.
Pretty heady stuff. Maybe the word will spread to others who need to hear it, including many in the United States.