Can Bush still sell his Iraq war?

President Bush took advantage of a vacationing Congress, a surprise visit to once-restive Anbar province and supportive words from Australia’s prime minister to trumpet his claims of progress in Iraq. Now he must press his case to skeptical lawmakers and a war-weary U.S. public.

The coming week may be his last opportunity to shift the debate — or at least to give Republicans political cover and throw Democrats off stride.

The White House rollout strategy envisions a presidential speech to the nation, either Thursday or Friday.

Next week will start off with testimony to Congress on Monday and Tuesday by Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, widely admired by both

Bush says some U.S. troop reductions might be justified if security continues to rise. But the basic evolving administration message to Congress appears to be: give the buildup some more time — perhaps into early next year — since it seems to be working.

“We’re going to succeed in Iraq,” Bush told a business audience here for the annual gathering of the 21-nation Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.

That this year’s APEC meeting was held in Australia turned out to be a gift to the White House.

Not only did it provide an opportunity to go to Iraq — it’s sort of on the way if you head east to west — but Prime Minister John Howard, the host, is an unabashed supporter of Bush’s Iraq policy, perhaps the last among world leaders.

With former British Prime Minister Tony Blair gone from office and British troops leaving southern Iraq, Howard’s defiant insistence that the roughly 1,600 Australian troops now in Iraq would remain must have been music to Bush’s ears.

Even though Howard’s own political career may soon be ended because of his support for that unpopular war, his strong backing of Bush’s military buildup came at just the right time as the president braced to face his congressional critics upon his return.

Congress’ recess also gave the president a chance to command headlines.

“He has taken advantage of the absence of Congress to buy time,” said Anthony Cordesman, an Iraq expert at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.

But claims of progress by Bush and Petraeus don’t always match developments seen by others, and there’s a limit to how much additional time Bush can buy. “A lot of these issues are going to counterbalance what he says,” said Cordesman.

Michele Flournoy, a Pentagon strategist during the Clinton administration, said the administration is clearly “trying to keep the ‘surge’ at least until next spring, its natural end.” That’s when the first of the 30,000 additional troops Bush sent to Iraq start returning home.

“Then they’ll declare a degree of victory,” she suggested. And since there is not enough consensus in the Democratic-run Congress to block Bush’s plan, “were in for more of the same,” Flournoy said.

Snow, the presidential spokesman, said that Bush will try to “restage the debate” to be more bipartisan and more reflective of national-interest concerns.

“It would be kind of nice to break through the idea that the war has be a cleavage point and that, to be a good Democrat you have to be against it. Frankly, you’ve seen a number of Democrats coming back (from Iraq) saying, ‘No, well, we see real progress,'” he said.

He acknowledged dissent on the Republican side, and conceded, “It’s an issue where people certainly can have dissenting views.”

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Associated Press writers Terence Hunt in Washington and Deb Riechmann in Sydney, Australia, contributed to this report.

Comments

  1. justanothercoverup

    And what impact will the recent video from Osama Bin Laden have on this mess, and we can already see how Bush and The Republican Learning Channel are already spinning it – and this time, I believe in their utter arrogance, they missed something very important. The next couple of weeks will tell – but I’m not optimistic at all – IF it was really Bin Laden that was on the tape!

    Fox News Spins Bin Laden’s New Video and The War on Terror

    William Cormier

  2. SEAL

    Osama bin Laden always pops up when Bush needs him doesn’t he? Sometimes I wonder if Osama isn’t residing in the Lincoln bedroom at the White House with 24 hour room service. He certainly looks healthy for a man on dialysis living in a cave. Where do they plug that machine in? Has anyone looked for a really long extension cord across those mountains? Or listened for the sound of a generator? How many years is it Osama bin Hiden, now? Gee! We can’t find him. But here is his latest video. And right on time, too. Uh Huh.

  3. Klaus Hergeschimmer

    Pops up just like a Jack-in-the-box. Osama bin Laden just seems totally surreal to me like a cartoon.

  4. SEAL

    Oh hell! You have no idea how infuriating this whole OBL lying crap is for me. Just turn over all the intel you have about him and assign the “mission” of his capture or kill to my guys and they will be back in a very short time with him or his head in a bag or proof that he has been dead for however long he has been dead. Dammit, that is what we do.

    The fact that they have not given the mission to the SEALs is proof that they are liars and do not want him caught.

  5. Klaus Hergeschimmer

    I just feel empty Seal, I called and called my former
    Democratic reps to no avail, and no surprise the Dems are scratching their chins, lining up behind the LYING KING, Dubya-Shrub, and saying,”Well, we should give Shrub a chance”. I’m totally proud to have become an Independent, took me awhile, but I ditched the Democrat Party.