Collectively, these surveys show that while Bush may have suffered a temporary drop in popularity as he played out the diplomatic game, he still has in place the various check-offs on public sentiment necessary to act authoritatively in the Middle East. The question now is how he will spend his political capital as the coming weeks unfold.
Here at home, he must avoid the appearance of bullying his war supporters on domestic issues. Such a posture could find him back in the fever of post-9-11 cockiness that plagued the White House by the summer of 2002. On the up side, there will be good will awaiting a victorious Bush, allowing his team the opportunity to push through a more meaningful economic stimulus package that can sustain the president and our nation long after Saddam is gone.
Internationally, Bush must decide how to deal with those nations that have been indifferent or obstructionist as the Iraqi crisis has unfolded. It will remain vitally important to maintain quality relations with Russia. That former Cold War enemy now plays a critical role in suppressing and eliminating weapons of mass destruction all over the world, and in helping to replace Middle East oil supplies with its own vast petroleum reserves.
And France? Well, that's a different matter. In an effort to save his own political neck and revive a virtually dead career, French President Jacques Chirac played the "Iraq Card" and created delays that might cost American lives in combat. While the French will remain important in helping fight international terrorism, it's possible their haughty self-centeredness could end up costing more lives than any single terrorist attack.
President Bush will have newfound political strength after the events of the next few weeks. Let's hope he is measured in its use. Perhaps one good move would be to capture Saddam Hussein and provide him political exile in Paris. Bon voyage, desert dictator.
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