How do we get out now? How do we withdraw when the fighting is only intensifying? When our leaders twist facts in a defensive crouch rather...

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How do we get out now?

How do we withdraw when the fighting is only intensifying? When our leaders twist facts in a defensive crouch rather than face reality? Forget how we got stuck in this quagmire. The crucial question now is: Can we exit without leaving behind a bigger mess than when we started?

I’m not talking about the war in Iraq.

I’m talking about the Seattle monorail.

Like the war, the monorail was once a widely backed civic venture. Like the war, ending it is likely to be much harder than it was to start.

In each there have been bad developments “on the ground,” with the problems greatly exacerbated by the hubris and denial of those running the show.

Dick Cheney saying the insurgency is in its “last throes” is of a piece with monorail Executive Director Joel Horn saying the project’s $11 billion price tag is a “finance fiction.”

Both statements are willful denials of reality. Both insult the public’s intelligence.

And both are self-destructive to the cause they purport to advance. Anyone who looks can see they’re not true. It makes you doubt everything else these guys are saying.

I’m a monorail backer, but I admitted in a column last week that my cheerleading for this project was an error. I urged the agency to fess up to its problems and try to fix them.

Instead, it compounded them, first by pretending they don’t exist, then by peddling bogus figures to gussy them up.

As a result, the monorail’s political problems are dramatically more severe now than just a week ago.

Some of its most ardent supporters say they can’t see how the People’s Train survives unless Horn and other top staffers are sacked.

Well, maybe. But it’s amazing the respect and good will you can earn if you just admit you made a mistake. I have an e-mail inbox jammed with nice messages to prove it.

What matters now is the 10-member board of directors that oversees the monorail. The best hope for salvaging the project lies with them.

Last night, the board made a start. Members said they won’t accept this foolish financing scheme.

Some even apologized for failing to put the brakes on this runaway train.

Now they need to admit this isn’t just about interest rates. They don’t have enough money, and have to either put the contract up for rebid or put new taxes before the voters, or both.

The worst thing they can do is follow President Bush’s mantra of “stay the course.”

The monorail is no life-or-death matter. Obviously, it’s not as important or complex as the Middle East.

But both leave me longing for leaders who will face facts rather than constantly trying to spin the facts to fit the policy.

I don’t know about Iraq, but with the monorail I’m about to cut and run. I sense the same from the rest of the city.

It’s sad. Cutting and running is one way out of the political quagmire, but it still leaves us stuck in traffic.

Danny Westneat’s column appears Wednesday and Friday. Reach him at 206-464-2086 or dwestneat@seattletimes.com.