Through the political prism, from

Through the political prism, from red to blue
: The weekend brings two opposing takes on the same Bush Administration tactics in the Middle East.

Here’s Andrew Sullivan in the Times of London coming off like a bit of sycophant again as he finds every reason to call Bush brilliant and ignores every reasonable reason to think otherwise.

And then here’s Frank Rich in the New York Times coming off like the emcee at a roast as he barbecues George W. for his disengagement and his black-and-white world view and giving him and his team no credit for seeing an inch past their noses.

If we’re to believe Sullivan, the Bush White House is engaged in a terribly cynical strategy: We scold Israel even as we wink and let them continue their attack and we do this only for international consumption, so we can say we tried and then go out and finish Dad’s war against Iraq.

If we’re to believe Rich, the Bush White House is filled with naive moralists and diplomatic dunderheads who wish we could stay on the sidelines and let this be someone else’s war.

The truth, of course, is somewhere in the middle, between red and blue.

Yes, our wrist-slapping of Sharon and Colin Powell’s foot-dragging journey across the Middle East (with an itinerary that reminded me of one of those old Family Circle cartoons, with a youngster’s defiantly circuitous route home) are cynical. Surely we can’t believe the world is so stupid.

And yes, Bush stayed out for too long and did too little and now is paying the price.

True, too, that Bush will find it hard to defend his very own doctrine that admirably called a terrorist a terrorist now that he is refusing to label the terrorist of terrorists one himself, now that he is about to reward him for terror with a meeting by the secretary of state.

These two pieces balance each other neatly, for they show that even as we debate whether Bush sees the world in black or white or gray, the truth is that the color of this world is brown, the color of the muddy mess in which we find ourselves, the color of bullshit.