Thursday, December 01, 2005

Morning copy 12.01.2005

The war over the war in Iraq

President George W. Bush's speech was very early in yesterday's news cycle, so media sources this morning are advancing the story with a "day 2" flavor.

Peter Baker, in the Washington Post, has this news analysis:
But in subtle ways, he and the administration are adjusting the message to reflect Iraq realities.

No longer are they declaring that the insurgency is in its "last throes," as Cheney did last spring. Instead, they emphasize in their new strategy document that "it is not realistic to expect a fully functioning democracy, able to defeat its enemies" to be built in three years. And Bush acknowledged yesterday what U.S. military and intelligence experts have said for months, that terrorists make up the smallest group opposing coalition forces and that "ordinary Iraqis, mostly Sunni Arabs" represent "by far the largest group."
Judy Keen and Richard Benedetto provide news analysis in USA Today. They write that Bush is staking his presidency on this war, which has been often noted, and that public perception of his leadership will not change unless the story on the ground improves:
"Bush's speech was spot on, but substantive actions out of Iraq on the evening news will speak volumes towards reversing public opinion," said Scott Reed, a Republican strategist.
Elisabeth Bumiller, in the New York Times, says that Bush's political calculation is that Washington is the key city to the Iraqi war and that the GOP won't lose either house of Congress because only a few races are competitive. But (note the attribution in the second graf):
And Amy Walter, the senior editor of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, which closely tracks Congressional races, said that most House races had not even started, and that the antiwar political climate "could still overwhelm the structural advantages of Republicans."

The longer term worry of the White House, Mr. Bush's advisers say, is that support for the war could drop so precipitously by the 2008 presidential election that a majority in Congress could demand withdrawal and start to hold back financing - the "cut and run" strategy that Mr. Bush both derides and fears.
Note these two headlines which are indicative of some MSM coverage this morning: "Bush Is Now in Step With His Generals" in the Los Angeles Times, and "For Once, President and His Generals See the Same War" in the New York Times.

Here is the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal buying in:
Mr. Bush addressed the U.S. Naval Academy, and his aides released a strategy document called "Victory in Iraq." Not subtle, we know, but war demands Presidential repetition more than nuance. And a victory strategy is the only antidote to the rush to the exits that more and more Members of Congress are seeking as they look at the opinion polls.
And some noteable reportage from this same WSJ effort:

NOTE: I have been informed that this WSJ editorial potentially will endure a correction tomorrow. James Fallows has had much more contact with Min-sticky than this editorial reports. (CE 1200 EST)

This puts him ahead of a press corps that still focuses on past failures. In the latest issue of The Atlantic Monthly, for example, James Fallows purports to explain "Why Iraq Has No Army." But the public affairs office of the Multinational Security Transition Command in Iraq (or "Min-sticky") says Mr. Fallows not only didn't visit but didn't even contact them while reporting the article or at anytime during at least the past nine months.

Min-sticky commander General Martin Dempsey told us from Baghdad yesterday that not a single Iraqi Army or police unit has folded in battle this year the way some did during the spring 2004 violence. He added that about 4,000 former Iraqi officers have responded to a recent recruitment drive, a sign that they see their future residing with a democratic Iraq and not their old Baathist masters.
The general trend line of Fallow's piece, that the Iraqi military lacks command and control by design, remains accurate. It has been somewhat reinforced by Seymour Hirsh's reporting in this week's New Yorker.

Note what Mark Silva quotes from one analyst in the Chicago Tribune:
"We're making measured progress" in training a credible Iraqi army, said Phebe Marr, an Iraq scholar and senior fellow at the U.S. Institute of Peace. "My own impression is that when creating an integrated [Iraqi] army, you're not talking months, you're talking years."
Some from Iowa react,Des Moines Register:
Dr. Casey Clor, 43, a doctor who fled Iraq in 1997 and is now a U.S. citizen who practices in Pleasant Hill. He hated Saddam Hussein and, at first, applauded the U.S. invasion:

"This speech was for political gain and has nothing to do with the realities in Iraq," he said.

Of the Iraqi conflict, Clor said, "It will never be over. You have stirred a hornet's nest that will never be over. You should learn from the history of the Middle East and not ignore it."
Julie Hirschfeld Davis covers yesterday's speech in the Baltimore Sun's backyard:
"He's inviting people to believe that there can be some sort of equivalent to the end of World War II, let's say, where the bad guys will surrender and the good guys win, and I don't know anyone who knows anything about any kind of insurgency who believes this can turn out that way," said Richard J. Stoll, a Rice University international relations professor. "What has been needed and what is still needed is a realistic assessment of what can be accomplished - that's been lacking all along in Bush's rhetoric."

Paul Hackett, an Iraq war veteran running for the U.S. Senate as a Democrat in Ohio, said Bush's speech was a "PR stunt" and called the strategy outline "a smoke screen from a White House completely divorced from the reality of our situation in Iraq."
Peter Grier of the Christian Science Monitor:

"I don't see anything really new," says Hurst Hannum, a professor of international law at the Fletcher School at Tufts University in Medford, Mass. "This is more staying the course, really."

There have so many rearticulations of Iraq policy that they all begin to blend together, notes Hannum. "All Americans have to hope the administration finds a way to go forward," he says. "But they seem to be struggling."
A quick CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll today:
The poll conducted Wednesday does not directly reflect how Americans are reacting to Bush's speech, because only 10 percent of the 606 adult Americans polled had seen it live and two-thirds had not even heard or read news coverage about it.

But it does indicate the scope of the battle ahead as the Bush administration seeks to regain support for the war among an increasingly skeptical public.

Among poll respondents, 55 percent said they did not believe Bush has a plan that will achieve victory for the United States in Iraq; 41 percent thought he did.
David Lightman in the Hartford Courant writes about the president's reference to Joe Liberman:
"A consensus on the war is forming in the Democratic center, that it's virtually impossible to set a withdrawal date, but there should be a change in our approach to the war," said Norman Ornstein, political analyst at Washington's American Enterprise Institute.

Many of the war's Democratic backers, such as Dodd, Kerry, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y.; Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., D-Del., have adopted that position.

"Joe is not in that center," said Ornstein, "and I don't see anyone else in the party where he is."
Nancy Pelosi now supports John Murtha's withdrawal strategy (briefer: 6 months, QRFs remain in the region), Washington Times. Of course, the Washington Times' lede blows the nuance of Murtha's plan. Surprise, surprise.

Borzou Daragahi, in the Los Angeles Times, notes almost everything in this lede. Only absent fact is that the elections are also approaching. (By the way, this Times is doing a great job in Iraq reporting.)
BAGHDAD — A controversial oil exploration deal between Iraq's autonomy-minded Kurds and a Norwegian company got underway this week without the approval of the central government here, raising a potentially explosive issue at a time of heightened ethnic and sectarian tensions.
Scott Peterson, who has always done well in this war's reporting, has a story on election preparations in the Christian Science Monitor:
"There is a problem in the election commission itself - security is only a pretext not to open polling centers," complains one man, jabbing his finger accusingly at the commission. "I don't want to criticize you, but it is too much."

"The first [elections] experience was successful to some degree," says Adil al-Lami, head of the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq (IECI), in a bid to mollify the anger and uncertainty. "There were some mistakes, there were some negatives," he says. "But to be very idealistic is far away from our daily lives."
Georgia's 48th Brigade Combat Team visits the ancient city of Ur, Atlanta Journal Constitution.

How Arnold may get his groove back

Arnold Schwarzenegger has picked a former Democratic party activist to be his chief of staff, Los Angeles Times.

George Skelton, in the Los Angeles Times news' analysis, says that the Governator makes extreme (I'd say bold) moves.

The Los Angeles Times profiles the new chief of staff:
SACRAMENTO — Over the course of her career, Susan Kennedy, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's new chief of staff, moved from a Democratic Party partisan and abortion rights advocate to a pragmatic dealmaker with a trust in the free market and limited tolerance for stridently liberal approaches to government.
The San Jose Mercury News' kicker shows the ire of the right:
Randy Thomasson, president of Campaign for Children and Families, a group that opposes gay marriage, said in making the appointment, Schwarzenegger has betrayed conservatives.

``By placing a leading homosexual, pro-abortion Democrat activist in charge of his entire administration, Arnold has taken a disastrous turn to the left,'' Thomasson said in a statement.

``Conservative voters who supported him are waking up from their dream and stepping into reality -- and the reality stinks.''
The San Francisco Chronicle notes more of the right wing's reaction and says that this is a move to the center by the Governator.

The next big question for the Governor is the death sentence of Stanley "Tookie" Williams, USA Today.

Samuel Alito

A 1985 memo by Samuel Alito, advancing the argument that courts could curtail abortion frequency by supporting state laws, has garnered attention. Susan Milligan in the Boston Globe.
Alito himself, answering a Senate Judiciary Committee questionnaire released by the panel yesterday, affirmed a view of judicial restraint. ''Judges must . . . respect the judgments reached by their predecessors, and they must be sensibly cautious about the scope of their decisions," Alito wrote.

Fundraiser in chief

Add Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele to the list of pols benefiting from a quick Bush visit, Washington Post.

Jackass news

The St. Louis Post Dispatch:
Party leaders say their big-eared, high-kicking party symbol has been co-opted by a candidate who is not really one of them. The city Democratic Central Committee sued ousted Alderman Tom Bauer this week, challenging his use of the donkey image on campaign signs and in ads.

"This isn't a funny story," insisted St. Louis party Chairman Brian Wahby. "This is important stuff - how dare this guy."
Note to would-be politicos: When you tell the media that this is not a funny story, you are in a funny story.

Last and least, the Los Angeles Times on "chessboxing".


Blogger Ezzie said...

I'm not sure where people got the WWII comparison... if anything Bush emphasized the opposite.

I don't think Bush said much new either - it's just the first time a lot of people listened. More importantly, he said it better this time.

1:20 PM  
Blogger copy editor said...

You raise a good point. From ysterday's speech:

"Most Americans want two things in Iraq: They want to see our troops win, and they want to see our troops come home as soon as possible. And those are my goals as well. I will settle for nothing less than complete victory. In World War II, victory came when the Empire of Japan surrendered on the deck of the USS Missouri. In Iraq, there will not be a signing ceremony on the deck of a battleship. Victory will come when the terrorists and Saddamists can no longer threaten Iraq's democracy, when the Iraqi security forces can provide for the safety of their own citizens, and when Iraq is not a safe haven for terrorists to plot new attacks on our nation."

He was much better in presentation. I still think he's got a screw loose on this war, but he seemed more in control yesterday.

1:24 PM  

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