Tuesday, May 25, 2004
From last night.
Andrew Sullivan appears to believe that Bush got his ideas accross in the President's speech at Carlisle Barracks. He gives Bush a B+ (or, "Not Bad") for the President's patient explanation of the plan to turn over sovereignty and Iraq's place in the larger war on terror. Money graph:
My own sense of what was new was the clear and emphatic declaration that the transfer of sovereignty June 30 will be real. That's critical - and critical to deliver. I also liked the way the president unapologetically linked what we are doing in Iraq with the broader war on terror. Critics like to believe that Saddam was somehow utterly unconnected to broader terror, had no potential to enable it, and was too secular to cooperate with al Qaeda. They're wrong on all counts. In the wake of 9/11, a Saddam-Zarqawi alliance would have been a terrible threat. Now we have a Baathist-Zarqawi insurgency. And we have had a year to defeat it. Threading the needle of sovereignty, transfer of power, battling terrorism and coordinating elections is still a massive undertaking. But I was reassured by the president's speech. It's a beginning. He now has to make a version of it again and again and again. He is up against a press corps determined to make this transition fail, in order to defeat a Bush presidency. He will need true grit to withstand it.
Sullivan has been taking the President to task in recent weeks, and rightly so. Bush has not been as forthright over our plans and operations in Iraq. The muddle over Fallujah only served to give an impression of indecision to conservatives, and warmed the hearts of his political enemies in the Democratic Party and its outriders in the liberal Mainstream Media. Bush explained Fallujah, among other things, and told the assembled officers and the nation why he chose to follow the Marine script to solve the problem. In so doing, he placed that conflict and others in Iraq on the larger canvas of a turnover of responsibility and authority to Iraqis.
As Sullivan points out, Bush must make these same speeches over and over again. Only then will he be able to bypass a partisan media intent on undermining the war effort to destroy him.
Never have I held the media in such contempt and slight regard.
David Brooks, for his part, gave a halting endorsement to the Bush speech. Brooks is an advocate of lowering our sights and muddling through. I don't think that he really has his heart in the ideological effort to offer a democratic alternative to Islamic Fascism, but I digress. To wit:
If it all works out, then Iraqis will feel they control their lives. They will stop playing both sides of the fence. They will take responsibility for their future. They will try to expel the foreign jihadists. They will regard Americans as necessary guests, and Americans will behave like guests.
Right now that happy outcome feels a long way away. But at least Bush has now squarely faced the consequences of his creed. There was always something antidemocratic about nation-building — the idea that a country could go into a foreign place, then hand it back to the locals.
Bush is betting his presidency on the Iraqis and their ability to govern themselves better than we governed them. At least he is now behaving consistently with the elemental conviction of this nation. If we have faith in anything, it should be in this democratic dream, which has so far, in our history, vindicated our hopes.
Brooks and other conservatives of the George Will set have grown nervous over the past months. The "panic" that has set in among Washington Republicans has been real, but it comes against the backdrop of increasing success on the ground over the past two weeks. Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army has been crushed, with Sadr himself confined to the holy shrine at Najaf. He has lost any support within the Shi'a collegium, and has witnessed a turn against him on the part of the general Shi'a community. Brooks recovers a bit in this column, but I sense a lack of spine that I don't sense in Sullivan's piece.
There is a sense here that the Democratic Party and the liberal media have overplayed their hand against Bush. They have done so, deliberately of course, to try to give John Kerry a solid lead. It has not worked. Bush should be ten points down in the face of this bad news. He is not. He is in a tie with Kerry right now. That should worry liberals, given all the confident happy talk coming from the Kerry campaign.
As the situation on the ground improves, as I believe it must (there are cycles to all things), Bush will begin a counteroffensive that will be both massive in scope and ideologically conservative in nature. Kerry has already lost the economic argument, as Bush will make clear during the summer. Now Bush will show that Kerry's positions on the War are neither new, nor an alternative to his own. He will make the subtext of the campaign as the following: victory with Bush or defeat with Kerry.
The American people will always choose victory if it is presented to them properly.
George W. Bush has always been a creature of superb timing. I think that he has picked his moment, and that moment is now.