Been down so long

With the president's poll numbers still dropping, the White House takes good news where it can find it.

By Tim Grieve

Published June 14, 2007 12:42PM (EDT)

With another poll putting George W. Bush's approval rating in the subfreezing range -- the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll has it at an all-time-low 29 percent, with the hemorrhaging coming from Republicans abandoning the president -- the White House must be looking for good news wherever it can find it.

How else to explain the decision to include this damning-by-faint-praise assessment from Gen. David Petraeus in the "Morning Update" the White House Communications Office sent to reporters today: "If you drive around Baghdad, you'll find astonishing signs of normalcy in perhaps half to two-thirds of the city ... In fact, the car bomb numbers have come down fairly steadily as well until just a couple of days ago, and we'll see if we can get those coming down again ... There's a real vibrancy in certain parts of Iraq, and in others obviously there is continued fighting and a sectarian cycle of violence underway. Obviously, there is damage, a need to ... help them stitch back the fabric of society that was torn during the height of the sectarian violence."

At a GOP fundraising dinner in Washington Wednesday night, the president offered a similarly tempered report on Iraq. "I talked to General David Petraeus today," Bush said. "The final troops have just arrived. Some progress and some setbacks." Maybe the president deserves some credit for his candor, abbreviated as it may have been. But here's the thing. After Bush said "some progress and some setbacks," the White House transcript shows that the audience actually applauded.

You take what you can get.

Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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