Monday, December 19, 2005

Reactions to President Bush's Iraq War Speech

I didn't feel the need to watch the speech by President Bush last night for the simple reason that I didn't need any convincing that leaving Iraq prematurely was a bad idea. From reading reactions on the web, however, it seems that I missed a good speech.

Two good collections of reactions can be found at Instapundit and by Michelle Malkin.

One of the more interesting comments came from Glenn himself:
But one big thing struck me: In this national televised speech, Bush went out of his way to take responsibility for the war. He repeatedly talked about "my decision to invade Iraq," even though, of course, it was also Congress's decision. He made very clear that, ultimately, this was his war, and the decisions were his.

Why did he do that? Because he thinks we're winning, and he wants credit. By November 2006, and especially November 2008, he thinks that'll be obvious, and he wants to lay down his marker now on what he believed -- and what the other side did. That's my guess, anyway.
I think this analysis is spot on. I've said before that Iraq does not seem to be the best issue for the Democrats to rest all their election hopes on. Taking the stance that young American men and women soldiers are akin to terrorists and doomed to failure will never be a popular view, regardless of situation.

Apparently the speech was written and delivered well enough to convince proud Bush haters, who once wrote this:
There seem to be quite a few of us Bush haters. I have friends who have a viscerally hostile reaction to the sound of his voice or describe his existence as a constant oppressive force in their daily psyche. Nor is this phenomenon limited to my personal experience: Pollster Geoff Garin, speaking to The New York Times, called Bush hatred "as strong as anything I've experienced in 25 years now of polling." Columnist Robert Novak described it as a "hatred ... that I have never seen in 44 years of campaign watching."
and reacted to last night's speech with this:
I am not, to say the least, a fan of President Bush. But a portion of his speech tonight genuinely moved me and made me think more highly of him. It was the part where he addressed opponents of the Iraq war, said he understand their passion but asked that they think of the stakes of defeat now that the war had happened and asked that they not give in to despair. I cannot remember this president ever speaking to his political opponents except to mischaracterize their views and use them as a straw man. (His post-Florida speech did to some extent, but it was so vague and struck me as so patently disingenuous that it didn't produce any similar reaction in me.)

This may be easy for me to say because I supported the war and oppose withdrawal. But even Bush's prior pro-war speeches mostly struck me as simplistic, ugly and demagogic, reminders that I supported the war despite the administration rather than because of it. But this moment in his speech tonight really struck me as some kind of symbolic or emotional break from the past for Bush--a genuine attempt to unify Americans rather than polarize them. Bush and his supporters (both inside and outside the administration) have made it so damn hard to support them on this war. It just got a little easier tonight.
So again, all in all, it seems I missed a good speech. It does worry me that a political junkie such as myself decided not to watch the speech. If I chose not to watch it, how many people actually tuned in?