Bush's Speech Decent, But Not What We Needed
President Bush took less than a minute before mentioning September 11th in his speech Tuesday night. That was a clear single that this administration was not prepared to change the message they’ve been hitting for the last few years. And, sure enough, nothing all that new came out of Bush’s speech.
That said, I thought the President gave a very strong argument as to why leaving Iraq now would be a horrible mistake. Of course, most Americans already support staying for now. The real question is, how are we going to win?
The best I can tell is that the President believes all we need is greater resolve. There was no hint that mistakes had been made. There wasn’t even a suggestion that new strategies would be tried. No one expected the President to make broad admissions of error or divulge specific strategies, but I think a lot of Americans would have liked to hear some more direct recognition that things hadn’t gone quite as planned and new courses will now be followed.
Few opinions are going to change because of this speech. While Bush made a very rational argument as to why we need to stay in Iraq, there was not much more than a passing effort to acknowledge and address the millions of Americans who are strongly against this war. Perhaps there is nothing Bush can say to calm the anger of those who oppose him. But I think he should have tried.
Instead, this speech was specifically tailored for those who supported the war but whose resolve has recently slipped. It was not designed to win converts, only to retain supporters. And, as such, I think it will do nothing to heal the bitter divisions over this war. Wednesday morning there will be brutal criticism from the left and resounding praise from the right. But we should expect to hear nothing new from no one new.
We needed more than just a strong argument for staying the course. We needed an earnest attempt to reach across the divide—even if those on the other side want no such offerings. Someone needs to try to bring us back together. Usually that task falls to our President. But that’s just not going to happen it seems.
Can any of the great voices on the left make the effort? Perhaps Senator Biden (D-DE) whose comments afterwards were exactly what liberals need—a firm resolve to win this war coupled with constructive critiques on what needs to change. If more on the left had Biden’s ability to be both committed to success and smart in dissent, perhaps we as a nation could pull closer together.
The President did a decent job in his speech. But we needed a lot more. And we need a lot more still.