Wednesday, October 25, 2006

President Bush's News Conference Unsatisfactory On Several Counts

Less than two weeks before the midterm elections, President Bush was trying this morning to put as favorable as possible a spin on the situation in Iraq, at a news conference essentially asking the American people to give him more time to fight the war as he sees fit.

But the U.S. has been at war in Iraq for more than three and a half years, and the President apparently is unwilling to make the fundamental adjustments necessary to put American forces there on a sounder footing. I know he said he will not be patient forever, but he has already been patient far too long.

Specifically, first, it seems to me that it is high time, in fact long past time, that Mr. Bush should put a new person at the Defense Department to take charge of the war effort. Again, at the news conference, he gave strong support to the secretary since before the war began, Donald Rumsfeld.

But Rumsfeld is past 70 years of age, he has made countless mistakes, and he must go before it will likely be possible to aright matters. No other president in American history would have stuck with Rumsfeld so long.

Second, the President would not say clearly at the news conference that he would put more pressure on Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki to take new steps to curb the sectarian violence which has turned Iraq into a bloody free-for-all as thousands of innocent citizens are killed simply because of being Sunnis or Shiites.

Maliki has been protecting the slimy leader of the Shiite Militias, Moktada al-Sadr, in the attacks--massacres and torture are the proper words--against Sunnis in the country. Just this morning, he objected to an American raid against these murderous thugs.

Unless Maliki complies with U.S. policy, he ought to be removed from power forthwith. The situation is too critical, and we have too high a responsibility, for us to stick with a government that is so dysfunctional. Either Maliki shapes up, or he must be shipped out. It would be no disservice to the cause of Iraqi democracy were incompetents and neer-do-wells stripped of power.

The news conference lasted an hour, and I was surprised, by the way, that none of the reporters asked the President whether he objects to the racist Republican National Committee ad against Democratic candidate Harold Ford in the Tennessee U.S. Senate race, the Republican candidate's letter threatening Hispanic voters in an Orange County congressional race, or the suggestions of the GOP candidate against Sen. Hilary Clinton in New York that she is ugly.

None of these scurrilous campaign tactics can possibly be defended by honorable people of either party, and it would have been instructive to ascertain whether Mr. Bush would clearly disavow them.

Much as I continue to believe that the war in Iraq is important, Mr. Bush could not have been convincing to many Americans this morning. There remains every prospect of Democratic control of the House and Senate after the Nov. 7 election.

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