The President Speaks: Security, Democracy, Reconstruction

Mary Katharine Ham
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Posted: Dec 18, 2005 11:50 PM

Bush' speech is here.

I didn't see it. I read it. It was a good one. I'm not usually wild about presidential speeches because presidents rarely sound like they're just talking to us (and that's what I want to hear)-- just the nature of presidential speech-writing and the fact that they're talking to millions of people at once. Bush is particularly vulnerable to this. He's great when he's just talking to folks; not so great on the soaring speeches of nobleness. Being a war President, however, usually requires the soaring speeches of nobleness.

This one read a little differently. It seemed to strike a balance between the conversational, comfortable Bush we need to assure us and the hard-as-nails, resolved Bush we need to lead a nation at war. Did someone at the White House hear the phrase "fireside chat" as much as I have in the past couple months and take heed?

First, a little history lesson on Saddam:

Our coalition confronted a regime that defied United Nations Security Council resolutions, violated a cease-fire agreement, sponsored terrorism, and possessed, we believed, weapons of mass destruction. After the swift fall of Baghdad, we found mass graves filled by a dictator; we found some capacity to restart programs to produce weapons of mass destruction, but we did not find those weapons.

It is true that Saddam Hussein had a history of pursuing and using weapons of mass destruction. It is true that he systematically concealed those programs, and blocked the work of U.N. weapons inspectors. It is true that many nations believed that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. But much of the intelligence turned out to be wrong. As your President, I am responsible for the decision to go into Iraq. Yet it was right to remove Saddam Hussein from power.

A little perspective on the kind of enemy we're fighting:

If you think the terrorists would become peaceful if only America would stop provoking them, then it might make sense to leave them alone. This is not the threat I see. I see a global terrorist movement that exploits Islam in the service of radical political aims -- a vision in which books are burned, and women are oppressed, and all dissent is crushed. Terrorist operatives conduct their campaign of murder with a set of declared and specific goals -- to de-moralize free nations, to drive us out of the Middle East, to spread an empire of fear across that region, and to wage a perpetual war against America and our friends.

A little smackdown for defeatists:

In all three aspects of our strategy -- security, democracy, and reconstruction -- we have learned from our experiences, and fixed what has not worked. We will continue to listen to honest criticism, and make every change that will help us complete the mission. Yet there is a difference between honest critics who recognize what is wrong, and defeatists who refuse to see that anything is right.

Defeatism may have its partisan uses, but it is not justified by the facts. For every scene of destruction in Iraq, there are more scenes of rebuilding and hope. For every life lost, there are countless more lives reclaimed. And for every terrorist working to stop freedom in Iraq, there are many more Iraqis and Americans working to defeat them. My fellow citizens: Not only can we win the war in Iraq, we are winning the war in Iraq.

And, some hope:

I know that some of my decisions have led to terrible loss -- and not one of those decisions has been taken lightly. I know this war is controversial -- yet being your President requires doing what I believe is right and accepting the consequences. And I have never been more certain that America's actions in Iraq are essential to the security of our citizens, and will lay the foundation of peace for our children and grandchildren.

Who knows if anyone who doesn't understand all this already was watching, but an old-fashioned talk from the Oval Office on network TV naturally carries more weight for viewers (although it messed up my DVRing of 'Desperate Housewives,' which I'm not sure was a good marketing strategy; pollsters may want to ask voters next week if their opinion on the speech was affected by the fact that it shortened their weekly Eva Longoria fix.)

I say keep talking to us, President Bush. You're good at it.

Instapundit and Malkin have big round-ups of reaction.

My favorite part?

The terrorists will continue to have the coward's power to plant roadside bombs and recruit suicide bombers.

"Coward's power." You know that's just got to rankle the heck out of Zarqawi.