Fred Barnes writes in this week’s WeeklyStandard on the president’s return to the public opinion wars over Iraq:
WE NOW KNOW WHAT WAS behind President Bush’s mysterious refusal for so many months to respond to Democratic attacks on his Iraq policy–a refusal that came at great political cost to himself and to the American effort in Iraq. It wasn’t that Bush was too focused on Social Security reform to bother. Nor did he believe Iraq was a drag on his presidency and should be downplayed. Rather, Bush had made a conscious decision after his reelection to be “nonpolitical” on the subject of Iraq. It is a decision he now regrets. And has reversed.
Here’s how a senior White House aide explains the decision not to answer criticism of the administration’s course in Iraq: “The strategic decision was to be forward-looking. The public was more interested in the future and not the past, since it was just hashed over during the election.” The president didn’t ignore the subject of Iraq entirely. He delivered a half-dozen speeches on Iraq and the war on terror, including an evening, prime-time address, in the first 10 months of 2005. He just didn’t rebut partisan attacks.
Harm was done. “Obviously the bombardment of misleading ads and the earned media by MoveOn et al. had an impact,” the Bush aide says, “and culminated during the Libby indictment and the [Democratic] stunt of the closed session of the Senate” on prewar intelligence. “That’s when we pivoted.”
Pivoted, and began marching forward. This is a strategy that needs to be maintained, day in and day out, for the year ahead.
UPDATE: Austin Bay wants more.
A suggestion to the White House staff: Ask Colonel Bay to drop by for a half-day conversation about framing the war. The man knows of what he speaks.