Franklin Roosevelt broadcast 13 of his fireside chats during World War II. They were pretty candid about early setbacks and ongoing obstacles -- but Roosevelt did not have to worry about political opponents and media critics who wanted to see America lose the war. Since the major military action in Iraq, Bush has emphasized steadfastness and insisted that America stay the course. Last week, he got more specific and made what should have long been an obvious point, "If by 'stay the course' (critics) mean that we're not learning from our experiences, or adjusting our tactics to meet the challenges on the ground, then they're flat wrong. ... Our strategy in Iraq is clear, our tactics are flexible and dynamic -- we have changed them as conditions require, and they are bringing us victory against a brutal enemy."
My sense from such occasional glimpses that I get of life at the top of the administration is that people there have believed for some time that Iraq is obviously headed for success. But that's not how things have looked on the outside. Bush came to Washington from Texas, where the political dialogue was set by the Dallas Morning News and other newspapers with not much in the way of an ideological agenda.
But in Washington, the dialogue is set by papers like The New York Times, whose White House correspondent wrote in a front-page story of "administration claims that Mr. (Saddam) Hussein posed an imminent threat to the world" -- despite the fact that Bush in his 2003 State of the Union message did not say that the threat was "imminent," but said it should be addressed anyway. So deeply ingrained in the Times' newsroom are the distortions and talking points of the anti-Bush left that its top people let a howling error like this on their front page.
"In the days ahead, I'll be discussing the various pillars of our strategy in Iraq," Bush said in his speech. About time. The commander in chief needs to give Americans a steady diet of meat and potatoes.