Reality is putty in the hands of those who make it their business to sell us their expedient version thereof. Reality is their challenge. It's what they strive to overcome, pretty-up, cover-up, slant and somehow deny. Reality isn't really in the eye of the beholder. Until the beholder beholds the object of his beholding, it's been through the PR ringer, rehashed, reshaped and presented already chewed and skewed. The bamboozled populace rarely gets to evaluate raw material. How we judge our leaders often has everything to do with the quality of the crews they employ to affect our judgment. Current events are filtered through lenses tinted tendentiously by the office-holders' damage-control hirelings, or by hangers-on entrusted with tarnishing and removing an antagonist from contention. Confusing? Not really. Imagine what would have happened had Binyamin Netanyahu won the recent elections and had to face the very same Hizbullah aggression that disrupted Ehud Olmert's further unilateral withdrawal plans. Let's assume that Netanyahu would have evinced impressive speed, resolve and resourcefulness. Let's even suppose his hypothetical ingenuity and imagination would have eliminated the rocket threat to Israel's northern half and forced Hizbullah to cough up the two abducted reservists. Would Netanyahu have become Israel's hero? Forget it. THE LEFT'S media minions would have mounted a merciless assault upon him. He'd have been pilloried as a warmonger and serial spiller of the blood of the nation's youth. Nothing would have been excessive in the sacred mission to undermine him, no matter how just the national cause, how existentially crucial the fight, or how unprovoked the grievance. Bibi would have been minced, hacked with implacable crusading relish by bon-ton know-it-all pen-pushers, whose reams of calumny would gain limitless and uncritical resonance. Netanyahu's political foes would have bussed demonstrators to Tel Aviv and told us that 400,000 had assembled spontaneously to clamor for Bibi's ouster. Censorious petitions would have circulated, each sentence therein amplified ear-shatteringly via ostensibly objective reporting. Aging ex-officers, reliving their left-wing heydays, would have protested indignantly and dramatically torn up symbolic call-up orders in front of obligatory news cameras. All-night and every-night vigils would have been organized outside Netanyahu's residence, shouts of "murderer" would have been hurled at him in the wee hours (as was done to Menachem Begin) and posters would picture him in Nazi uniform with vampire fangs dripping blood (as was done to Menachem Begin). Bibi's old elite combat-unit comrades would have been mobilized to broadcast his "unsuitability" and demand his sacking (as was actually done). Ridding Israel's body politic of its public enemy would be construed a commendable cause celebre. By the time the detractors were through, ordinary folks would have been unable to hear Bibi's name without experiencing gut-wrenching revulsion. This is why Bibi - red rag to the Left that loves to hate him - is awfully lucky he lost last March. That's not to say, however, that we, the plain people, are lucky wily Olmert won. OLMERT'S incompetence at a time of adversity is hard to beat. Indeed it's probably unprecedented. Comparisons to the Yom Kippur War are misleading. Though Israel was then caught tragically off-guard, it did recover, and did win. Our goal was to survive, which we incontrovertibly did. In this no-name war - not as inconsequential a conflict as suggested - none of our objectives were achieved. The kidnapped reservists are Allah-knows-where. Hizbullah retains the firepower to rocket Israeli towns at will in Allah's name. Our deterrence was hardly rehabilitated. Instead we sent a dangerous message to Allah's vanguard in Teheran: It's possible to pummel the Jewish state's civilians for over a month without incurring Allah's wrath. The bottom line is that our would-be annihilators were left to get up to no good on yet another day of their choosing. En route to this ignoble bottom line the IDF was left twiddling its thumbs for weeks while, nevertheless, sustaining costly casualties during each inactive day. Keeping a primed military machine stationary, dented and unable to do much about it, saps morale and initiative. The fact that waiting troops were, to boot, ill-equipped, sometimes even parched in the searing August heat under thick protective layers, is nothing short of scandalous. The same goes for forgetting the poor, elderly and infirm in neglected bomb shelters. Noncombatants who could fend for themselves left for safer parts - under their own steam. THE STATE wasn't there for its citizenry. At most, gallant volunteers for charitable outfits risked life and limb to distribute meals among the Katyushas. A third of Israel was allowed to wallow for weeks while its self-satisfied premier praised the commoners' resolution. This lover of luxury and expensive cigars couldn't imagine the hardship. Nor could he empathize with sleepless parents whose sons he kept vulnerable on the frontlines to use as bargaining ploys vis-a-vis Condoleezza and Kofi. Olmert shared no such anxiety, as his sons - both conscientious objectors - reside abroad. The most recent fray in which his daughter was engaged occurred outside the IDF chief-of-Staff's Zahala home, where she informed the neighbors that "a murderer lives in your midst." But safe though his personal offspring are, Olmert isn't without worries. While the guns still blazed, he had already summoned his publicity-sorcerers to conjure up magic cop-outs and deflect expected flack. Olmert may be grossly inept in running the affairs of state, but he's second to none in churning out a heavily biased portrayal of reality (in his own favor obviously), or advantageously manipulating our perception, prettying-up and covering-up. The day of the spin doctor is upon us.