The White House said the President’s speech would be be “new” and “informative,” but of course it was not. Intead it was a tedious compendium of cliches, bereft of substance, and proving nothing at all except that the president and those closest to him live in a parallel universe. Our generals told Congress last week that Iraq had but a single battalion that could fight on its own; they also said insurgencies can, and usually do,go on for years. In other words, Iraq was a disaster. The president, however, was in denial. He seemed to think that if he said “freedom” and “democracy” often enough — they’re on the march, our enemies hate them, blah blah and so on — he was saying something profound. But he wasn’t, and his performance was an embarrassment. It was painful to watch his smug smile when he thought he had said something clever. Meanwhile you suspected that one of the president’s men, or women, was holding up an applause sign. Nonetheless the applause never seemed more than dutiful.