Monday, November 21, 2005

White House tone has changed on Iraq

Just over a week ago, the president came out with guns blazing, metaphorically. Vice President Dick Cheney attacked the attackers. Early reaction from the traveling White House about John Murtha's resolution -- to remove troops quickly from Iraq -- was more of the same, likening Murtha's idea to the Michael Moore wing of the Democratic party.

However, over the weekend, George W. Bush shifted the tone of the administration's response. Praise was given to Murtha's lifetime of service and respect to his "careful" opinions.

This seems to have influenced the vice president in his remarks today to AEI, New York Times:

"I do not believe it is wrong to criticize the war on terror or any aspect thereof," Mr. Cheney said in an appearance before the American Enterprise Institute here. "Disagreements, arguments and debate are the essence of democracy, and none of us should want it any other way."


CNN's sub-headline:

Vice president calls Murtha 'a patriot,' says war debate legitimate


A question: was the White House strategy to lash out early and then seek reconciliation one week later, or does the White House believe that they must work toward civilized discussion because the poll numbers are very, very bad right now and the GOP could defect without something positive in the news?

I am inclined to believe the latter, as the intial response to Murtha's resolution was styled in true Karl Rove campaign fashion.

Perhaps something similar to the conclusion of Lexington in the Economist developed in the White House consciousness in Asia:

All presidencies get the blues. But John Kenneth White, a professor at the Catholic University of America, makes a point that ought to deepen the White House's mood of despair. The difference between presidents who can shake off the blues and those who can't comes down to one thing: their ability to change the subject. Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton both succeeded in changing the subject. Lyndon Johnson, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and George Bush senior all failed to do so.

Mr Bush is forever being forced to debate the same damn subject—his decision to go to war in Iraq. And each time he debates it, a bigger chunk of the audience turns against him.


And one BIG, historical question: Will the Democrats take this slight reconciliation and work with GOP leaders to get us the hell out of a mess in Iraq in an honorable but expedient manner?

2 Comments:

Anonymous Atlanticus said...

"A question: was the White House strategy to lash out early and then seek reconciliation one week later, or does the White House believe that they must work toward civilized discussion because the poll numbers are very, very bad right now and the GOP could defect without something positive in the news?"

Civilised discussion helps poll numbers?
Hmmm, got to think about that. During the election campaigns attacking Vietnam veterans (McCain and Kerry) was more successful...

I thought, it's all about mobilising the base...

Anyway, does the White House need good polls? Only if Cheney (or Rice) wants to run for president...

"get us the hell out of a mess in Iraq in an honorable but expedient manner?"

I am not sure you can have it both ways.

Anyway, what would be honorable?

3:27 PM  
Blogger copy editor said...

I don't think you can have it both ways either. The honorable route, as best as I can discern it, is to admit how royally we fouled things up and call on a true international deliberation. It would have been something if Dubya had a JFK moment like the one after the Bay of Pigs. He's not that big of a man though.

I don't doubt George Bush's intelligence, I doubt his maturity and character. I am a photonegative of the electorate in that sense.

As of now, the White House is relying on lucky breaks to keep control of foreign policy. 2006 and 2008 and the legacy question all hang over their heads.

9:44 AM  

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