The president takes a break from his Crawford, Texas, vacation today to sell his war in a speech before a Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Salt Lake City. If you want a sense of what the president will be saying, look no further than the first sentence of his latest weekly radio address. Well, not the first sentence. That's the one in which he said "Good morning." But in the very next sentence, the president got right to the point: "In a few weeks, our country will mark the four-year anniversary of the attacks of September the 11th, 2001."
Today's speech in Utah is the first of several "stay the course" presentations he'll make before friendly audiences in coming days; on Wednesday, the president will plead his case to a National Guard group in Idaho. The essence of his argument will be familiar: The United States was attacked on 9/11, we're fighting "the enemy" in Iraq so that we don't have to fight it back home, and did I mention yet that the United States was attacked on 9/11?
For more and more Americans, it simply isn't enough. A majority of Americans think it was a mistake to go to war in Iraq, that the war hasn't been worth the cost, and that the war is going badly now. While 28 percent of the public believes that the U.S. should maintain current troop levels in Iraq, 23 percent say the U.S. should withdraw some of its troops and 33 percent say all U.S. troops should come home now.
In a petition circulated today to his supporters, Sen. John Kerry says Bush should use his new speeches to provide the American people with answers about Iraq: "When will the President get it right in Iraq? Will he deliver to the nation and those sacrificing so much in Iraq a concrete plan for peace and victory? Why, at this late date, is the Pentagon still struggling to get the right supplies and body armor to America's troops? When will the President support a military large enough to face the challenges of today's world?"
Kerry probably won't ever have the chance to ask Bush those questions himself. The president wouldn't see Cindy Sheehan, and now he's speaking before groups that -- as usual -- aren't likely to present much of a challenge to him. Salt Lake City's mayor has suggested that Bush should be greeted today by the biggest protest Utah has ever seen, but that's not the kind of reaction the president will get inside the VFW convention. Told of the mayor's proposal, a local VFW commander told the Salt Lake Tribune: "Excuse my French, but -- that son of a bitch! It makes the mayor look very, very unpatriotic. It makes him look despicable."
It's music to the president's ears, and it's probably all that he'll be hearing.