Certainly, the world has gone crazy to be batting around the phrase “war on terrorism” with no sense that it’s just a metaphor. Do you notice that the press uses it now without quotation or qualification? God help us; someday we will look back on this period of time, scratch our heads, and wonder what the operational definition of that thing was.
That being said, President Bush does refer to it as a concrete, literal thing — and he’s been all over the place this week trying to decide if he can actually win it or not. In my “Political Orbits” post earlier this week, I suggested that Bush was undertaking an intentional strategy (in advance of the debates) of lowering expectations. My first take on his comments about not winning the war was that he was either dropping the bar a little bit, or he was actually and finally ready to address this thingamajig in more real terms. (Both could be true).
At the expense of greater sanity and clarity, however, Bush got nailed for the flip-flop (another despicable, logic-reducing metaphor I hate), and so that was that. With John Edwards nipping at his heels, Bush quickly recommitted to defeating that thing which has no form.