08/17/2005: In the Heat of the Day (Texas Style)
"....Now, let's look at what Bush is doing wrong. In speaking about Iraq to the nation, the president often seems tone deaf. Taking a nearly five-week vacation when U.S. troops are experiencing a living hell is a mistake. It reinforces what's cruelest about this war, which is that the soldiers in Iraq are doing all the suffering. Meanwhile, people back home go about their business. The president doesn't ask the country to sacrifice with taxes to pay for the war, or with an energy policy that would reduce our vulnerability to Mideast turmoil.
I have no doubt that Bush grieves for every fallen soldier. But he undercuts his leadership role with his seeming insensitivity to Cindy Sheehan. Whatever her personal quirks, this grieving mother has become a symbol for the families who are paying the real cost of the war. Once she began her vigil in Crawford, a presidential listening mission would have seemed like a no-brainer -- except at this White House, which appears to regard any concession to a critic as a mistake. Bush reinforced this appearance of insensitivity in a comment Saturday that was quoted by Cox News Service. He said that while he wants to be "thoughtful and sensitive" to people who want to talk to him, "I think it's also important for me to go on with my life."
A clear sign of Bush's failure to communicate effectively about Iraq comes from the pollsters. Newsweek and Associated Press polls taken in early August measured his job approval rating at 42 percent, the lowest level ever. Approval of his handling of Iraq was even lower -- 34 percent in Newsweek's sampling, 38 percent in the AP's. Anyone who doesn't think Vietnam when he sees those numbers doesn't have a good memory.
The measure of leadership isn't dealing with success but dealing with difficulty. Bush is now in that bitter cockpit. Somehow the president must find a way to level with the country and build support for a sustainable policy that puts more of the burden on Iraqis. A good start for Bush would be to come back to Washington early from Texas and start thinking how the nation as a whole can share in the sacrifices required by this long, hard slog."
-- David Ignatius (Washington Post) 'Hard Slog' for Bush
Karen on 08.17.05 @ 05:23 PM CST