Then, President Bush should address the nation about questions and concerns raised by his opponents and even some within his own party about his post-war strategy. One element of that is finding Saddam Hussein, which would remove an important obstacle in the effort to restructure Iraq. Additional forces are said to have been assigned to that task and reward money offered. It is not certain whether money will be sufficient to persuade fearful Iraqis to reveal information that could lead to his whereabouts. The president needs to communicate to the public about this and other parts of his plan.
Also, while a congressional investigation may be premature and serve primarily as a forum for Democrats to attack the president for political purposes, the administration must get specific. This includes talking about the cost of the post-war effort in dollars (Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld last week acknowledged that it would be $3.9 billion a month, nearly twice his previous estimate) and years of troop involvement (the recently retired coalition commander, Gen. Tommy Franks, said U.S. troops might have to stay in Iraq for up to four years). Can these forces overcome the hit squads that have been gunning down American and British troops at the current rate of one to seven per day? The country deserves an answer from the president.
Polls indicate public support for the post-war effort is strong but shaky. President Bush's overall approval rating dropped nine points to 59 percent in just 18 days, according to the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll. While the poll found seven of 10 believe the United States should keep troops in Iraq, even if it means additional casualties, 52 percent believe the level of casualties is "unacceptable."
President Bush, who has rightly gone on the offensive when it comes to terrorism and tyrants like Saddam Hussein, must now act to keep public confidence high. He cannot be reactive, or events and his opponents will harm his cause and weaken his reelection chances.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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