I'm sure it's a coincidence, but suddenly I'm seeing a President George W. Bush who is acting in ways this columnist and others have been wanting to see for what seems like ages. I think his newfound efforts will prove politically fruitful.
For too long the president has appeared out of touch with the public in his attempts to defend the Iraq war. He has stumbled repeatedly in trying to answer nagging issues about flawed intelligence, and whether the believed existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was or was not the sole reason for removing Saddam Hussein from power.
In a series of speeches this week, Bush departed from his prior line of rhetoric, and even his prior delivery style. Following one speech on Iraq, the president took everyone aback by fielding questions from the audience.
It was a deft public relations move. It reminded us that this was the same George W. Bush who bounced back from a poor debate against John Kerry in the presidential campaign to equal or better Kerry in the debate that followed.
The president is demonstrating the brand of confidence needed to let the public know that he is his own man and, even more important, that he is a capable leader in a tumultuous time.
Later in the week, Bush got even smarter. He admitted openly that yes, some of the intelligence that he and other leaders relied on to evaluate the need to invade Iraq turned out to be unreliable.
In being so honest, instead of offering his customary stonewalling defense of the decision-making process, the president gained desperately needed credibility for the more important point he made next. Namely, that Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator who had repeatedly demonstrated a willingness to attack both his own countrymen and other nations. Bush emphasized that Hussein was a ticking time bomb in a volatile region.
For some time I have noted my belief that Bush's approval ratings have probably bottomed out. I have written that by overplaying their political hand, Democrats would likely set the stage for a rally of public approval for the president. I'm now more convinced than ever that this is the case.
Who knows? Maybe the president did take a few helpful hints from his brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. As I wrote in this column last week, Gov. Bush enjoys huge popularity in his state, and his brother in the White House might do well to mimic some of Jeb's ways of doing things.
However that may or may not be, George Bush's turnaround looks to be gaining some momentum.
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