PrestoPundit

Bush Admits Screw Ups on Intelligence

Posted by PrestoPundit on 12/30/2005

and on Iraq war strategy — but only after internal warfare within the administration:

President Bush shifted his rhetoric on Iraq in recent weeks after an intense debate among advisers about how to pull out of his political free fall, with senior adviser Karl Rove urging a campaign-style attack on critics while younger aides pushed for more candor about setbacks in the war, according to Republican strategists ..

Democrats forced an extraordinary closed-door Senate session to demand further investigation of the roots of the Iraq war. That proved a galvanizing moment at the White House, according to a wide range of GOP strategists in and out of the administration. Rove, Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman and White House strategic planning director Peter H. Wehner urged the president to dust off the 2004 election strategy and fight back, according to officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share internal deliberations. White House counselor Dan Bartlett and communications director Nicolle Wallace, however, counseled a more textured approach. The same-old Bush was not enough, they said; he needed to be more detailed about his strategy in Iraq and, most of all, more open in admitting mistakes — something that does not come easily to Bush.

Although Rove raised concerns about giving critics too much ground, the younger-generation aides prevailed. Bush agreed to try the approach so long as he did not come off sounding too negative. Peter D. Feaver, a Duke University specialist on wartime public opinion who now works at the White House, helped draft a 35-page public plan for victory in Iraq, a paper principally designed to prove that Bush had one ..

The humility theme was woven into speeches, often in the first two minutes to keep viewers from turning away. Aides had noticed that anger at Bush after Hurricane Katrina subsided somewhat after he took responsibility for the response. The idea, one senior official said, was like fighting with a spouse: “You need to give voice to their concern. That doesn’t necessarily solve the division and the difference, but it drains the disagreement of some of its animosity if you feel you’ve been heard.”

I’ve spoken here several times about President Bush’s need to regain his credibility by ending the pretense that the American people are a bunch of Pollyannas — because Bush has carried on as if he could pretend that nothing has gone wrong with either U.S. WMD intelligence or U.S. security strategy in Iraq. I guess the assumption was that if he could pretend none of this existed, the people would start pretending themselves that none of this exited.

Bush was too much of a politician — or too scared — to talk about the elephant in the living room. Well, it’s best we talk about it, because it isn’t going away and not talking about it doesn’t help make it go away — it draws more attention to it.

Bush has turned a corner because talking about the elephant breaks the spell of fear surrounding the elephant. If you can talk about it you can deal with it — which is what the U.S. government needs to be doing.

So what is Bush doing to fix American intelligence? What is he doing to wipe out the infrastructure of the suicide bombers?

These are the things that matter for the future — and these are the things the President needs to address and explain to the satisfaction of his employers, i.e. you and I. So far he hasn’t done it — not to my satifaction. But at least now I know he thinks these are real problems. Until recently Bush seems intent on denying even that.

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