Robert Bartley, in this morning’s Wall Street Journal, reviews the uranium controversy and concludes that: “the uranium issue is the latest in a series of desperate efforts by critics to impugn the president’s success in Iraq. As the British might say, this is very odd indeed. Usually, intelligence controversies are over who is to blame for failure; this time it seems to be about discrediting victory.”
True enough. And Richard Benedetto in USA Today offers the optimistic suggestion that the “Democrats’ comments may come back to haunt them.” His theory is that as long as the majority of voters remain concerned about terrorism, attacks on the President by contenders who themselves have little foreign policy credibility or experience are likely to backfire.
The Administration’s handling of the uranium issue, its first political crisis, has been stunningly inept. The issue never should have been allowed to spin out of control; finger-pointing has made President Bush and his national security team look foolish; and the Administration acts as if it does not understand that the Democrats control the national media. The Administration’s ineptitude was exemplified by Donald Rumsfeld’s and Condoleezza Rice’s efforts over the weekend to point out that what Bush said was true. Well, of course it was, but given that the Administration had already said the line shouldn’t have been in the speech, and implied that it was false, their efforts were not only too late, but came across as just more waffling.
Worst of all, the Administration has been entirely unable or unwilling to go on the attack against the Democrats who are giving aid and comfort to the Sadaamites, which is the only way to stop the feeding frenzy. Now the Administration’s standing with the public appears to be in free fall, and it will take both a better political effort on Iraq and a dramatic news event–like the capture of Saddam Hussein–to change the subject and perhaps stop the bleeding. And all for nothing: a single true statement in the State of the Union speech. Which goes to show the extent to which the press has been lying in wait for President Bush to make a mistake.
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