Shields and Brooks React to President Bush’s Speech
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JIM LEHRER: Mark, in general, what did you think of the president, what he said and the way he said it?
MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated Columnist: Jim, serious, sober and – gone was the cheerleader. No mention of corners turned or anything of the sort. I do think that he tottered up to the edge of admitting mistakes – or mistakes have been made, which is one of the worst of all Washington constructions, instead of saying, I have made mistakes, the mistakes that were made obviously were too few troops. That was a decision that was made by the administration.
He talked again about sacrifice but the only sacrifice being offered and asked is of the troops in uniform. The rest of us go unasked.
JIM LEHRER: What about his plan? What about his plan?
MARK SHIELDS: His plan, it doesn’t seem markedly different from what has been done. If it is, I think that the test obviously will be soon, time is not on his side. Time is not his ally and I think the reality will be the reality that we see in the next six months.
JIM LEHRER: What do you think of the strategy that the president outlined?
DAVID BROOKS, The New York Times: Well, first I thought the speech was appropriately sober and I thought the description of how we got here, the Samarra bombing and all that was pretty much an accurate, right description.
JIM LEHRER: Realistic?
DAVID BROOKS: Realistic description of what’s happened.
I think he also did a good job of explaining why this military strategy will be different from previous military strategies. The increase in troops, the ability to hold ground as well as other things. The ability to use the Iraqis and change the rules of engagement.
There were some parts I thought he sanitized. I thought he sanitized and overemphasized the idea that Iraqi troops would be out front and American troops won’t be bearing the primary burden. I don’t think that’s going to wind up being true.
He sanitized the relationship between the U.S. government and the Iraqi government. Making it sound like a perfect alliance of two governments working together. I don’t think that’s true, especially in the Shia.
And mostly he sanitized the idea that the violence in Iraq is caused by insurgents and extremists who are somehow appendages or extraneous to Iraqi society. That’s not true. So there is parts he sanitized.
Nonetheless, I think it’s a step forward in a military sense. I personally think and the people I trust say it has a chance of success. The politics are still tricky.