Analysts from both parties have called the war the biggest political liability facing the Republicans this year. Mr. Bush's political aides have urged fellow Republicans to embrace the conflict, and Mr. Bush seemed to go a step further, suggesting that he hoped the midterm elections would be fought over rival approaches on Iraq.
"What matters is that in this campaign that we clarify the different points of view," Mr. Bush said from the press secretary's lectern in the White House conference center up the street from the Oval Office. "And there are a lot of people in the Democrat Party who believe that the best course of action is to leave Iraq before the job is done, period, and they're wrong."
[. . .]
Democrats have sought to stoke public displeasure with the war, and they seized on Mr. Bush's remarks about Iraq as evidence that he was choosing to stay with a failed policy.
“The president's promise to keep American forces in Iraq as long as he is in office is no substitute for an effective plan to complete the mission," Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the House Democratic leader, said in a statement, referring to Mr. Bush's promise that "we're not leaving so long as I'm president."
The above is from rooting-tooting Jim Rutenberg and his "In Election Push, Bush Faults Talk of Iraq Pullout" in this morning's New York Times which is written in a manner that suggests he's lonely and needs a little attention (partisans of both sides will probably spend all/much of the day blogging, action alerting, et al on this article) but really doesn't suggest he was in the mood for journalism as evidenced by the fact that the Bully Boy's announcement (a key news bit, one more serious jounalists would open with) that the US wasn't leaving Iraq doesn't show up until paragraph ten.
There was a time when reporters attempted to at least sound like reporters, Rutenberg wants to do his own Jimmy Carville/Mary Matlin box-step -- as though he's appearing on So You Think You Can Dance and the guest judge is Tim Russert who, if Rutenberg can just muster all the right talking points, will book him on Meet the Press!
For Rutenberg the actual news isn't the issue of what was said or wasn't said, instead it's off to the horse races with fantasy handicapping of the November elections. Over at the Washington Post, Michael A. Fletcher and Glenn Kessler's "Bush Says Iraq Pullout Would Be 'A Disaster'" works from the premise that informing readers what the Bully Boy said and what it means is a worthy role for journalism. From that article Martha notes this:
Several prominent Democrats rejected Bush's call for staying the course in Iraq, saying the problem there is not a lack of will but lack of a winning strategy. "We need to set a date to force Iraqis to stand up for Iraq, force the administration to finally do the diplomacy necessary to find the political solution our generals say is needed," said Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.). Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.) also called for Bush to change direction. "President Bush is wrong to say that success in Iraq is a question of resolve," he said. "Instead, it is a question of strategy."
And you can click here for a transcript of the full speech.
If Rooting-Tooting and the Times need further proof of how badly they missed the story, they can check out other coverage of it. They can take a look at the BBC's "Bush rejects withdrawal from Iraq" which opens like this:
US President George W Bush has ruled out any withdrawal from Iraq while he is president.
At a news conference in Washington, he admitted keeping US forces in Iraq was "straining the psyche of our country".
But he said withdrawing troops from Iraq would be a "huge mistake" and create a safe haven for terrorists.
Meanwhile, the US military said four of its soldiers had been killed in the restive western province of Anbar in the last 24 hours.
And possibly we can all take a moment to wonder if Rooting-Tooting is even aware that Americans are dying are in Iraq? The Times and Rooting-Tooting could sample David Corn's
"At Press Conference, Bush Stays the Course" (Capital Games, The Nation) which opens this way:
George W. Bush keeps trying to rally popular support for his war in Iraq. But he has little to offer other than stay-the course-ism. He cannot point to progress in Iraq. Nor can he point to a plan that would seem promising. Thus, he is left only with rhetoric--the same rhetoric.
That was on display during a presidential press conference at the White House on Monday. Here's a selective run-down.
One reporter asked,
More than 3,500 Iraqis were killed last month, the highest civilian monthly toll since the war began. Are you disappointed with the lack of progress by Iraq's unity government in bringing together the sectarian and ethnic groups?
No, I am aware that extremists and terrorists are doing everything they can to prevent Iraq's democracy from growing stronger. That's what I'm aware of.
He could not bring himself to say he is disappointed by the government's inability to curb the sectarian violence? That was an odd way to defend his actions in Iraq.
It's only in the paper of record that what's said isn't worth examing because there's a horse race to handicap. It's as though someone took down dictation of the MSNBC primetime feed.
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