Bush to Address Nation About Iraq, But What Should He Say?
Recent polls showing that support for the war in Iraq is slipping have led President Bush to schedule a prime time speech to the nation this coming Tuesday. But what can he say to rally support?
Writing for Fox News, Centrist Democrat and former U.S. Representative from Texas, Martin Frost, suggests the President should level with the American people. Frost says:
There is no question that Saddam was a tyrant and that the Middle East is better off with him no longer in power. Also, a democratic Iraq could have a real impact on the future of the entire Middle East. If nation-building (democratization) had been the administration's real objective from the beginning, it should have leveled with the American public at the outset rather than relying on now-discredited claims of weapons of mass destruction and Iraqi involvement in Sept. 11.
The American public is perfectly capable of dealing with the truth. The Bush administration needs to level with the public about the difficulty of the job ahead in Iraq rather than making general statements indicating that all is well. We will stay the course in Iraq if the country is convinced that Bush has a realistic plan for the future.
We can argue all day about whether Bush adequately and honestly presented the case for war before the invasion. We can also argue about whether or not the media is obsessed with the negative and whether the daily listing of body counts is sapping public support. But we can’t change the fact that we ‘re Iraq and we can’t change how events there are covered. All we can do is decide where to go from here.
President Bush must take a strong leadership role. Public support must be maintained until an Iraqi Constitution is created and a permanent government is elected. It would be incredibly wrong to withdraw now. But staying will have its costs. Vice President Dick Cheney’s recent remarks that the insurgency is in its “last throes” creates a false impression of imminent victory. And while he properly clarified his remarks later, his original statement was definitely part of a pattern of unguarded optimism that has persisted since “Mission Accomplished.”
Optimism from our leaders is essential, but not to the detriment of communicating the real costs. Instead of telling us that this will all be over soon, President Bush should speak clearly about the challenges and losses ahead, about why we absolutely must push forward and about how all of us here on the home front can help the efforts.
Martin Frost is right. We need the hard truth. But we can handle the hard truth. Americans are strong and the great majority of us will not waiver if the President leads.