NYT's Bumiller: Americans Tuning Out Bush’s Ineffectual “Cheerleading” on Iraq

The Times leads Wednesday with Elisabeth Bumiller’s take on Bush’s lively White House press conference, which the Times headlines “Bush Concedes Iraq War Erodes Political Status.”

“President Bush said Tuesday that the war in Iraq was eroding his political capital, his starkest admission yet about the costs of the conflict to his presidency, and suggested that American forces would remain in the country until at least 2009. In a quick remark at a White House news conference about the reserves of political strength he earned in his 2004 re-election victory -- ‘I'd say I'm spending that capital on the war’ -- Mr. Bush in effect acknowledged that until he could convince increasingly skeptical Americans that the United States was winning the war, Iraq would overshadow everything he did.”

After quoting Bush’s optimism on Iraq, Bumiller boils Bush’s optimistic speech down to just another political “tactic” and suggests America is tuning him out.

“The speech tactic worked in late 2005 when another series of Iraq addresses helped to stabilize the president's poll numbers temporarily. But analysts said that with his message now familiar to the nation, it was not clear whether people were listening.”

As usual, the generally Bush-hostile Bumiller finds unflattering things to say about the president’s comportment.

“Mr. Bush's mood at the news conference alternated between relaxed and testy, although he appeared to be trying hard not to show his irritation at some reporters. In one exchange, Helen Thomas, the longtime White House correspondent and Hearst newspaper columnist, asked Mr. Bush why he really wanted to go to war with Iraq. He curtly replied that ‘to assume I wanted war is just flat wrong, Helen, in all due respect.’”

Media reporter Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post didn’t see the exchange that way:

“Bush did find a useful foil at the presser in calling on liberal columnist Helen Thomas for the first time in three years. She attacked the war and essentially accused him of lying about why he took the country to war, allowing Bush not only to punch back but to show the country that he's up against a left-wing press corps.”

More Bumiller:

“At another point, he took on a peevish tone when asked about Democratic measures in Congress to censure him for his secret surveillance program. A recent New York Times/CBS News poll shows that a majority of Americans support the program as long as they believe it is intended to protect them from terrorism.”

Bumiller elaborates on video on the Times website about Bush’s many “problems,” basically dismissing Bush’s speech as ineffectual “cheerleading” and implying Iraq is in fact in civil war, whether Bush admitted it or not.

 “The problem that the president has is that what Americans see on their television screens every night is a lot different than what he’s telling us is actually happening there….The problem is he hasn’t announced any new initiatives, any new policies, in these speeches, a lot of it is simply what some military analysts say is cheerleading. The other problem he has is that people like former Prime Minister Allawi, one of our strongest allies in Iraq, said just this week that the country is basically in civil war. The president on Tuesday said no, the country is not in civil war, but we’re down to semantics here.”

And it’s an open question if what Americans are seeing ‘on their television screens every night” is in fact the complete story from Iraq.

For more examples of New York Times bias, visit TimesWatch.

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