George W. Bush has just traveled to another military installation to give yet another speech aimed at shoring up support for the war in Iraq. It may be the season of Thanksgiving and Christmas and all that, but it's sure feeling like Groundhog Day around here.
On June 4, 2005, Bush sought to build support for the war in a speech at the Air Force Academy in Colorado. On June 28, 2005, Bush sought to "reclaim a public mandate" for the war with a speech at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. On Aug. 30, 2005, Bush likened the war in Iraq to World War II during a speech at a Naval Air Station in San Diego. On Oct. 25, Bush sought to bolster support for the war in a speech at Bolling Air Force Base in Washington. On Nov. 11, 2005, the president offered a "forceful defense" of his Iraq war policy in a speech at the Tobyhanna Army Depot in Pennsylvania.
We could go on and on, and someday the president will run out of both military bases and platitudes to deliver while speaking at them. The president can't make his Iraq arguments out in public, where a substantial majority of the people disagree with what he's saying and don't believe him anyway. So he retreats to the safety of U.S. military installations around the world, to the comfort of the same lines he's offered up so many times before. Bush trotted out all the old standbys in his speech at the U.S. Naval Academy today. We heard, as we did at the Osan Air Base in South Korea a couple of weeks ago, that Iraq is "the central front in the war on terror." We heard, as we did in a speech at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska earlier this month, that "we will never back down, we will never give in, and we will never accept anything less than complete victory." We even heard that long-abandoned golden oldie about "turning the corner" in Iraq, this time attributed to a lieutenant in the Iraqi security forces.
What did we hear that was new? Not much. The president said more than he usually does about the nature of the "enemy" in Iraq, explaining that the United States actually faces a three-part mixture of "rejectionists, Saddamists and terrorists." And the president offered more details than he usually does about the training of Iraqi security forces, although the "metrics" the Pentagon has offered up on that front have varied so much over time that there's little reason to trust the numbers that the president ticked off during his speech today.
What else? There wasn't a timetable for getting out of Iraq, and there wasn't an admission that mistakes have been made along the way. But there was a nifty new backdrop that said "Plan for Victory" a whole bunch of times, and maybe just saying it enough times will finally make it so. The president has three more speeches planned between now and Dec. 15.