Thursday, November 27, 2003

Bush in Baghdad

Well, I'll give him one thing- it's a damned good trick that he pulled off, going to Baghdad. It even had that theatric aspect that seems to be increasingly characteristic of the administration:

he troops had been told only that they were gathered for Thanksgiving dinner with a VIP guest in the mess hall at Baghdad International Airport.

L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. administrator in Iraq, added his own drama to the surprise. Billed as the special guest along with coalition forces commander Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, Bremer opened the program by telling the soldiers it was time to read the president's Thanksgiving proclamation.

He asked if there was "anybody back there more senior than us" to read the president's words. Bush emerged from behind a curtain as cheering soldiers climbed on chairs and tables to yell their approval.
There's no doubt whatsoever that this will end up in RNC ads just as soon as they can edit the tape together.

The real question, for me, is what prompted this visit. Was it simply a political stunt, or is Bush actually concerned about what is going on over in Iraq? It's probably more the former, but I think there may well be an element of the latter as well. The about-face on Iraq was sudden enough and jolting enough that it may well have been, amazingly enough, Bush's own idea. I have no doubt he's been fed nothing but spin since the get-go. Even if he had access to real information, though, it seemed as if he had convinced himself (or had been convinced) that things were fine.

After the CIA report and Bremer's trip to Washington, could it be that Bush's illusions were shattered, and that he himself is trying to improve the situation? Seems unlikely, but it's possible, especially if he knows things, bad things, that we don't.

Anyway, interesting factoid from the article:

When Bush's father visited U.S. troops at a desert outpost in Saudi Arabia on Thanksgiving Day 1990, in the runup to the first Gulf War (news - web sites), he became the first U.S. president to visit a front-line area since President Nixon went to Vietnam in 1969.

Dwight David Eisenhower, as president-elect, visited Korean battle fronts in December 1952 and President Lyndon Johnson made two wartime trips to Vietnam.
Bush-the-Elder visited before his war began; Nixon and the rest visited when their wars was already going downhill. Needless to say, a presidential appearance does not mean that the war is going swimmingly; indeed, considering the record of the wars mentioned, it would imply that things really aren't that good.

Not that there's much controversy over that, but it'll be useful when the RNC ads come up and the rolling re-election squad start lauding Bush for his bravery and thoughfulness.

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