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President Owes Public More Information, Analysts Say

While satisfied with President Bush's reasons as to why success in Iraq is crucial, the president still needs to convince those skeptical of the new strategy that it will work, political analysts David Brooks and Mark Shields say.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    Now, some analysis of what the president had to say from Shields and Brooks, syndicated columnist Mark Shields, New York Times columnist David Brooks.

    Mark, the president's stated purpose for this interview and others was to convince the skeptics about his new Iraq plan. Did he make any progress today?

  • MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated Columnist:

    I don't think so, Jim. I think the president put it bluntly himself. The secretary of state did, as well, yesterday.

    And that is that all the words, all the rhetoric, I mean, you could be Churchillian at this point, but it's the reality on the ground in Baghdad. And you led the news tonight and you prefaced your first question to the president by what's going on, in terms of the American casualties, in terms of Iraqi — the crisis that is Iraq.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Is he making his case, David? How would you say he's doing making his case?

  • DAVID BROOKS, Columnist, New York Times:

    Well, this is the best I've heard him on the past, on the troop deployments, on the inability that we had for a couple of years to hold any territory that we cleared.

    I thought it was very interesting what he said, after the Samarra bombing, that he didn't commit enough troops into Baghdad to quiet what was followed. I hadn't heard him say that before.

    I found him also pretty compelling on the future, what would happen if we don't succeed there. And he was nothing if not wanting to return to that theme.

    Where I found him less compelling was on the present and on this plan. And he identified sources of skepticism and I thought did very little to fill in, in any substantive way, why we should not be skeptical.

    One, why should we trust the Maliki government now when they've let us down almost every time in the past? Why is 17,500 the right number to go into Baghdad? Will that make a difference?

    And, third, you know, are we going to go into Sadr City? How exactly are we going to do it? He talked vaguely about clearing neighborhoods. But how exactly are we going to do it?

    You know, Americans have been following this issue for a long time. And they're pretty well educated about it, especially viewers of this program. They want some details. They don't just want the grand assertions.

    And his problem, I think, throughout his presidency — he's very declarative; he's very assertive. But when it comes to the details and the arguments and the evidence, he doesn't put it together the way a lawyer had. And, therefore, I found myself less persuaded about the present course.

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