Bush Ties His Political Fate to Outcome in Iraq
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
And I'm Robert Siegel.
President Bush laid out what he called a Strategy for Victory in Iraq today. In a hall full of midshipmen at the US Naval Academy, he attempted to answer the growing criticism of the war and calls for the withdrawal of American troops. Mr. Bush forcefully rejected a timetable for pulling out, and he said that more and more Iraqi troops are up to the task of protecting their country.
(Soundbite of speech)
President GEORGE W. BUSH: The facts are that Iraqi units are growing more independent and more capable. They are defending their new democracy with courage and determination. They are in the fight today and they will be in the fight for freedom tomorrow.
SIEGEL: NPR's Daniel Schorr listened to the president's speech. Here's his analysis.
`Major speech' is a somewhat depreciated phrase in the White House lexicon, but today's Victory in Iraq speech at the Naval Academy was about as major as it gets. It had the ring of President Franklin Roosevelt's 1936 `This generation of Americans has a rendezvous with destiny.' It was a summons to doubters and a challenge to believers to meet the test of spreading freedom.
What the speech was not was an effort at reconciliation with critics in Congress and elsewhere that some had expected. No benchmarks or timetables on troop withdrawal; no gesture to the Senate, which has asked for at least a progress report every three months. Instead, there was a lot of `stay the course' rhetoric, assertions that a corner had been turned, that Iraqi forces are making real progress. The president presented a sanguine view of developments in Iraq that did not match the reports of explosions and suicide bombs and abductions that are the daily grist of news reporting from Iraq.
At the same time, the White House released a 35-page document called Our National Strategy for Victory in Iraq. Its sections--headed Victory in Iraq Is a Vital US Interest; Failure Is Not an Option; Our Strategy for Victory Is Clear--made it seem more like a public relations handout than a military planning document. Democrats predictably found the president's speech disappointing. John Kerry said, `What the president did not do today again is acknowledge the fundamental reality of the insurgency.'
Mr. Bush is planning three more speeches between now and Iraq's parliamentary election on December 15th. However that turns out, Mr. Bush has crossed some kind of Rubicon with no easy way back. He has made himself a political prisoner to unfathomable events in Iraq and growing congressional sentiment for a pullout. This is Daniel Schorr.