George W. Bush will try again to shore up support for the war in Iraq with a speech to a National Guard group in Idaho today. All things considered, he might be better off fishing. If the nation's editorial pages are any indication, the first outing in the president's big post-Cindy Sheehan campaign -- a speech at a Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Utah Monday -- didn't get the result he wanted.
Here's a sampling of editorials we've seen so far:
New York Times: "It took President Bush a long time to break his summer vacation and acknowledge the pain that the families of fallen soldiers are feeling as the death toll in Iraq continues to climb. When he did, in a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Utah this week, he said exactly the wrong thing. In an address that repeatedly invoked Sept. 11 -- the day that terrorists who had no discernable connection whatsoever to Iraq attacked targets on American soil -- Mr. Bush offered a new reason for staying the course: to keep faith with the men and women who have already died in the war. . . . It was, as the mother of one fallen National Guardsman said, an argument that 'makes no sense.' No one wants young men and women to die just because others have already made the ultimate sacrifice. The families of the dead do not want that, any more than they want to see more soldiers die because politicians cannot bear to admit that they sent American forces to war by mistake."
Los Angeles Times: "President Bush's sunny declaration on Monday that Baghdad's leaders were 'defying the terrorists and pessimists by completing work on a democratic constitution' was unfortunate not only for its timing but for its willfulness. Just hours after Bush's speech, Iraqi leaders announced (again) that they were unable to agree on a draft constitution. Just as disturbing, however, is the continuing disconnect between the president's perspective and Iraq's reality. . . . . In his speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Bush again conflated Al Qaeda and Iraq, neglecting to note that Al Qaeda put down roots in Iraq only after the invasion or that Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11 or Osama bin Laden. His description of Iraq's constitutional negotiations -- 'a difficult process that involves debate and compromise' -- understates the depth of animosity in Iraq. . . . As more Americans and Iraqis die, Washington and Baghdad need a plan to stem the chaos the U.S. unleashed with its invasion -- a chaos that has given terrorists a new recruiting tool. Wishful thinking and stubborn optimism do not constitute a policy. The sooner realism prevails, complete with metrics for progress and consequences for those who fail to meet them, the better."
Denver Post: "The president believes an effective constitution will fortify Iraq's founding democracy and allow the withdrawal of American troops to begin next year. It appears, however, that the constitution will include elements that 130,000 Americans might not think they're fighting for -- a limitation of women's rights, for example, and a strong role for strict Islamic law."
Salt Lake Tribune: "Imposing democracy at gunpoint in Iraq is looking more and more like a fool's errand. Nevertheless, President Bush continues to try, mostly because, at this point, that's about all the United States can do. See the constitutional process through, then get out. If you want a U.S. exit strategy in a nutshell, that's it. . . . The best the United States can hope to do at this point is give cover to the stop-and-go process of writing an Iraqi constitution and holding elections for a new government. After that, the United States should withdraw its troops. Because every day that the United States remains in Iraq only increases resentment of the occupation and strengthens the forces of terrorism. That is the opposite of what the United States is trying to accomplish. When a leader and a nation reach that kind of a realization, it is time to change strategy."