Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Social Security may be safe from this assclown for now ???

Mar 22, 12:35 PM EST

Analysis: Bush Spends 'Capital' on Iraq

By TOM RAUM
Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush says he's spending his remaining "political capital" on the war in Iraq. The trouble is, he may have little left.

With his approval ratings at a low point and no end in sight in the war, Bush is trying to replenish his assets with a direct appeal to the nation that emphasizes the positive but also concedes grim realities.

It's a midcourse correction for the White House - one that is taking Bush away from speaking about Iraq primarily on military bases and before other supportive audiences. Lately, he's been speaking more candidly about the war - and taking more impromptu questions. He's making an aggressive case.

"He's going into the lion's den. And I think it's a tough thing for him to do," said Ross Baker, a political scientist at Rutgers University. "But it's something he has to do. One criticism has been his isolation, not just physical isolation but intellectual isolation. He's now gotten to the point where he's conceding that there are great difficulties. He's not simply cheerleading." (though we all know that's his forte is Yale is any indication....LOL )

Terrorists in Iraq "haven't given up. They're tough-minded. They like to kill," Bush told a White House news conference on Tuesday. The day before, he fielded pointed questions for an hour from a civic club in Cleveland. "I understand people being disheartened when they turn on their TV screen," Bush said. "Nobody likes beheadings. ..." (we also don't like news reports of Marines going batshit crazy and killing innocent families like Haditha ?????)

Bush bowed to political reality. His and Vice President Dick Cheney's confident assessments over the past three years about progress in Iraq have complicated efforts to restore public faith in his national security leadership, strategists in both parties suggest.

The war has been weighing on Republicans who will be on the ballot in November.

Nearly four of five Americans, including 70 percent of Republicans, believe civil war will break out in Iraq, an AP-Ipsos poll taken in early March found. Bush on Tuesday said Iraq is not now in a state of civil war.

President Bush says Iraq is not in a civil war, but some disagree. A-P Correspondent Steve Knight reports.

More people say they believe Bush is "out of touch with government," 56 percent, than thought that of President Reagan, 47 percent, at a comparable time in his second term, according to a Pew Research Center poll.

"The public is losing confidence in the war. Opinions about Iraq are feeding the fires of discontent with President Bush more generally," Pew's director, Andrew Kohut, said Tuesday.

Kohut said Bush's national security credentials - once a GOP strong suit - were damaged by the furor over the president's support of a deal to turn over terminal management at six U.S. ports to a state-owned company based in Dubai, part of the United Arab Emirates.

For sure, Bush still sees a glass that's half full rather than half empty in terms of his Iraq record.

In both his Cleveland appearance and the White House news conference, he rattled off achievements and insisted Iraq was firmly on the road to democratic stability.

But his tone was sober. He held out the possibility of a U.S. troop presence in Iraq for many years. He said a full withdrawal would depend on decisions by future U.S. presidents and Iraqi governments. "I'm optimistic about being able to achieve a victory, but I'm also realistic," Bush said.

He said if he were not certain of eventual success, "I'd pull our troops out."

After his 2004 re-election with a 3.5 million-vote margin in the popular vote, Bush claimed a second-term mandate that brought him "political capital." He said then that he intended to spend it on pushing through his agenda, which included a major overhaul of Social Security.

Social Security was sidetracked. And, while Bush can claim some domestic victories, many top agenda items continue to languish.

What became of that political capital? "I'd say I'm spending that capital on the war," Bush told reporters. "Social Security - it didn't get done," he added.

With many Republicans putting distance between themselves and Bush on Iraq, it wasn't clear where exactly he was spending the capital.

"What political capital does he have? He doesn't have any on Iraq," said Stephen Wayne, a professor of government at Georgetown University. "It was a bogus claim. He was emboldened by his election victory, which he viewed as a referendum on his presidency and on his party."

Bush on Tuesday conceded Republicans were restive and nervous.

"They're obviously expressing concerns," Bush said. "It's an election year, after all."

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