but managed to watch President Bush’s press conference while I was in the airport last night. I think he did reasonably well on both topics of the day, Iraq and pre-9/11. However, neither issue is a particularly good one for the president, although for different reasons. On Iraq, he just doesn’t have a very good story to tell right now. We went in on the grounds that Iraq had WMD, but we haven’t found them. The war went at least as well as could be expected, but lately the post-war has gone worse than many expected. Last night, Bush did what he should be doing — he made it plain that we will persevere; gave a pretty good explanation of why we should; and looked steady and serious about it. But this is a still a tough sell until Americans stop dying at anything like current rates.
On pre-9/11, Bush’s story is that he wasn’t negligent, and I think it’s pretty clear that he wasn’t. But you don’t win votes by proving lack of negligence. So, again, he’s playing defense — engaging in what is essentially damage control. That’s ok, but it’s much better to be on offense when you’re appearing before the nation on live television.
I suppose that Bush’s path to victory in November consists of engaging in damage control on issues like Iraq and pre-9/11, and relying on (one hopes) the absence of successful post-9/11 attacks, a surging economy, and a flawed opponent to see him through. It’s not a bad formula, but Bush is dependent on events outside of his control to a far greater degree than an incumbent president should be comfortable with.
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