Bush's luck strikes again
Normally, when a president visits troops overseas for the holidays, it's rarely criticized. But since the boy genius Karl Rove has such a heavy touch, his boss catches hell the day after a stunt.
Reuters is running this charming item, which screams coward:
Aides Prodded Reluctant Bush on Iraq Trip
By Adam Entous
CRAWFORD, Texas (Reuters) - For a president fond of a tough-guy image, George W. Bush was uneasy when an aide casually asked him, "You want to go to Baghdad?"
It was White House chief of staff Andrew Card who first proposed the surprise trip -- not the president.
"Andy (Card), as he often does, said (to Bush) almost in passing: 'Thanksgiving's coming up. Where do you want to go? You want to go to Baghdad?"' Rice recalled, and the planning got under way.
Seven months after his dramatic landing in a flight suit on the USS Abraham Lincoln with its "Mission Accomplished" banner, Bush conceded about the Iraq visit, "I was the biggest skeptic of all."
Instead of a flight suit, Bush wore a standard Army jacket to meet with the troops, and acknowledged he thought "all along" it might be too risky and that he "had a lot of questions" about security.
Bush aides considered scrapping the visit less than a week ago after a DHL cargo plane, landing at the same airport, was hit by a surface-to-air missile.
"The president had made clear that he was prepared to call this off at any time," Rice said, adding the DHL incident "made people go back and take a look at whether we thought the plane would be safe going in."
Can't you smell the cowardice from here?
Meanwhile Hillary Clinton and Jack Reed spent 10 hours on the ground, after a day in Afghanistan, where troops greeted her and asked them to sign autographs for their daughters.
Of course, Iraqis who cares, were either contemptuous or insulted by Bush's booty call of a visit.
Ahmed Kheiri, 24, saw the visit as a campaign tactic.
"He came for the sake of the elections," Kheiri said. "He never thought of the Iraqi people. He doesn't care about us. It was a personal visit for his own sake."
Iraqi politicians had mixed reactions to the visit. Mouwafik al-Rubei'e, a member of the U.S.-appointed Governing Council who met Bush on Thursday night, said the president "reaffirmed his country's commitment to building a new, democratic and prosperous Iraq."
Another member of the Governing Council, Mahmoud Othman, said the trip meant little.
"We cannot consider Bush's arrival at Baghdad International Airport yesterday a visit to Iraq," he said. "He did not meet with ordinary Iraqis. Bush was only trying to boost the morale of his troops."
Indeed, many Iraqis questioned how the trip could possibly help improve their dire situation. Eight months after the U.S. invasion, Iraqis complain they still have few jobs, little security and no political representation.
During Friday prayers on the Muslim holy day, imams at Shiite and Sunni mosques alike criticized the visit, saying Bush should expend his energy helping Iraq recover from war instead of flying across the world to pose for the cameras.
"Instead of coming here to celebrate Thanksgiving with his troops, Bush should release the innocent people in his prisons and arrest the real terrorists conducting attacks," Skeikh Abdul Hadi al-Daraji said at the Muhsen Mosque in the poor, Shiite Muslim neighborhood of Sadr City.
"First Bush said he would liberate Iraq. Now he is occupying it. How long will he stay?" asked the imam at Baghdad's largest Sunni mosque, Abu Hanifa.
Bush's visit was spent entirely on the grounds of Baghdad International Airport, a 15-square-mile complex heavily guarded by U.S. troops. He flew in under complete secrecy, keeping his plans even from his own parents, whom he had invited to his Texas ranch for Thanksgiving dinner.
News of his visit didn't emerge until he had left Iraq, and given the power outages in some Baghdad neighborhoods Thursday night, that meant many Iraqis didn't hear about it until Friday.
While U.S. troops called the trip courageous, some Iraqis saw it as cowardly.
"The way he made the trip shows he's afraid of Iraqis," said Mohammed Kamel, 40, a former soldier who now drives a taxi. "He should be; we're a fierce people."
And of course, the trip became fodder for Bush's critics at home, which included many of the organizations which had been left behind.
CRAWFORD, United States (AFP) - President George W. Bush (news - web sites)'s national security adviser defended his lightning trip to Baghdad, denying it was a political stunt that inadvertently highlighted the chaos still blighting Iraq (news - web sites).
Some critics, including the presidential campaign of retired general Wesley Clark (news - web sites), said the brevity and cloak-and-dagger nature of the visit -- which the White House sold as a morale-booster -- actually showed how little Washington has accomplished in Iraq since taking control in April.
"The trip highlights how insecure Iraq is and shows how we need to get our allies in to get the American face off the occupation," Clark spokesman Jamal Simmons told AFP.
"Hopefully, President Bush realized, when he looked into the faces of those soldiers, that he owes them a success strategy in Iraq so that we can get back to the business of fighting the war on terrorism," said Simmons.
Bush's visit overshadowed a similar one a day later by Senator Hillary Clinton (news - web sites). A source familiar with the planning of her visit said the administration was informed in late September that she would go.
Uh, she's not running for president. And she still made Bush look bad because of the way he snuck in and out.
Rove has some solid short term ideas, but ever since Mission Accomplished, they have blown up like an IED. Steel tariffs, the judicial 30 hour marathon, now this. Bush got one day of good press and about a week of abuse coming up. Even when you want to give him some credit, you can't. And then not going to Walter Reed or Ft. Stewart just makes this look even more like a stunt. If he had visited the wounded, it would have muted much of the criticism. This didn't.
How this, a sure-fire hit, could get so screwed up, is beyond me. How the president is on the defensive for this, and being quoted as both craven and cowardly, after all, the 19 year old 11B's only have their wits and rifles to protect them, is beyond me.
Of course, Clark's and Clinton's call for a now almost completely impossible international occupying force isn't much better, but at least it sounds sane. as opposed to Bush's tough talk and sneak thief actions.
posted by Steve @ 2:47:00 AM