November 11, 2005


His Image Tarnished, Bush Seeks to Restore Credibility (RICHARD W. STEVENSON and DAVID S. CLOUD, 11/11/05, NY Times)

Faced with a bleak public mood about Iraq and stung by Democratic accusations that he led the nation into war on false pretenses, President Bush is beginning a new effort to shore up his credibility and cast his critics as hypocrites.

In a Veterans Day speech on Friday in Pennsylvania, Mr. Bush will take on a new round of accusations by Democrats that he exaggerated the threat posed by Saddam Hussein's weapons programs, a senior administration official said Thursday, conceding that the Democrats' attack had left more Americans with doubts about Mr. Bush's honesty.

"It will be the most direct refutation of the Democrat charges you've seen probably since the election," the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to outline a strategy that has not yet become public and will play out over several weeks through presidential speeches, close coordination with Republicans on Capitol Hill and a stepped-up effort by the Republican National Committee. [...]

In a speech on Thursday that highlighted the growing unease of some Republicans with lack of the progress at defeating the insurgency, Senator John McCain of Arizona said, "There is an undeniable sense that things are slipping in Iraq."

But Mr. McCain warned that proposals for withdrawing forces next year "are exactly wrong" and called for the American military presence to grow by 10,000, to 165,000.

"Instead of drawing down, we should be ramping up, with more civil-military soldiers, translators and counterinsurgency operations teams," he told a packed audience at the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington research institute.

Although the administration has ignored Mr. McCain's repeated calls for an increased American military presence in Iraq, his speech was helpful in serving as a counterweight to new proposals from Democrats for a phased withdrawal from Iraq.

Mr. McCain said a proposal last month by Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, to reduce American troop level by 20,000 in coming months would be "a major step on the road to disaster."

But Mr. Kerry, whose presidential candidacy last year was dogged by the perception that he sought to be both for the war and against it, went to the Senate floor not long after Mr. McCain's speech to repeat his call for a large-scale American withdrawal over the next 15 months in concert with efforts to encourage other nations to take on a greater role in stabilizing Iraq and to encourage Iraqis to speed the process of taking responsibility for their own security.

"The path forward in Iraq," he said, "must defeat the insurgency and keep faith with our troops, rather than be driven by the politics of the Republican base or rigid adherence to President Bush's aimless course."

Mr. Kerry is right, except for one thing: Iraqification is our course. Combined with falling energy prices and contiunued good economic news it will take care of the President's numbers.

Bush Aide Fires Back at Critics On Justification for War in Iraq (Peter Baker, November 11, 2005, Washington Post)

Bristling from fresh assaults on its justification for war, the White House dispatched national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley to the briefing room to issue a rebuttal to "the notion that somehow the administration manipulated prewar intelligence about Iraq." The administration's judgment on the threat posed by Iraq, he said, "represented the collective view of the intelligence community" and was "shared by Republicans and Democrats alike."

"Some of the critics today," Hadley added, "believed themselves in 2002 that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, they stated that belief, and they voted to authorize the use of force in Iraq because they believed Saddam Hussein posed a dangerous threat to the American people. For those critics to ignore their own past statements exposes the hollowness of their current attacks."

The unusually combative statement by the normally mild-mannered Hadley underscored how the issue has inflamed political dialogue in Washington in the days since a senior White House official was indicted in the CIA leak case.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 11, 2005 7:32 AM
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