Given the election results, the end of the Bush administration is an event that's been eagerly anticipated by most of the nation. The lame-duck president is limping out of office with near-record low levels of popularity and a reputation for incompetence that the recent economic tailspin has only made worse.
There have been many assessments of every aspect of the last eight years, but last week's statement by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice about the state of the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks brings into focus the failure of the administration in that area.
Rice conceded to reporters in Jerusalem that the goal that Bush had set of a peace agreement by the end of his term will not be met. Though we hope that, someday, a real peace deal will be signed, the talks that Rice has carried out since the Annapolis conference were nothing more than a charade that did little to enhance the administration's already-shaky credibility.
The ill-advised negotiations never had a chance.
With the terrorists of Hamas in control of Gaza and the Palestinian Authority barely holding on in the West Bank, the notion that the time was ripe for an all-out push for peace was always farcical. But over the course of an endless series of shuttles to the region, Rice never allowed realism to intrude into her rhetoric about trying to nudge the two sides together. Israel was, and remains, willing to make peace. The P.A. has no such desire and couldn't implement a treaty, even if it wanted to.
That is a basic fact that Rice left out of her swan song to Middle East diplomacy. And though the media has generally been willing to point out the administration's shortcomings on other issues, this lack of perspective has been noticeably absent from coverage of Rice's talk, as well as the rest of her efforts in this regard.
The Philadelphia Inquirer, which once boasted its own correspondent in Israel and must now depend on the Associated Press for copy on the region, published an account of Rice's statement last week which left out the salient fact that the failure of her efforts was due to the lack of a real Palestinian peace partner.
Just as we hope that the new administration will adopt a more- realistic approach to the peace talks, is it too much to hope that the Inquirer and its wire services will do the same?