Monday, December 8, 2003

Conflicted about the Conflict: Giving Thanks

On Thanksgiving Day, President Bush made a covert visit to Iraq, to have Thanksgiving dinner with a selected group of soldiers.  The event was done under heavy security, apparently with many in the White House itself not aware of what was happening, nor the President’s own family, and only a select group of aides and reporters were taken along.

To hear Talk Radio go on about it for the next few days, you would have thought he bit the head off a puppy on live television.  The lefties ranted about how the event was a superficial photo op, pure politics.  The righties ranted about how Bush was a “stud” for doing this (yes, that term was used) and how the lefties were just trying to co-opt the event.  (And then they went on to decry Hilary Clinton’s trip to Afghanistan as superficial photo op, pure politics.  And the same thing about Howard Dean and his brother’s remains in Laos.)

In reality, they are both right.

We’re less than a year out from the next Presidential election.  Everything that Bush does is geared for maximal political effect.  The administration wants to direct and control the media as much as possible, and to get big impact out of every event they can.  Don’t be surprised to see further big “events” occur every couple months — at Christmas, at Memorial Day, at July 4th — any time that Bush & Co. see their numbers needing to be propped up.  Expect most of these to involve the Troops, which plays to both the pro-War side and the “Support the Troops” folks.

At the same time, everything that the Democrat candidates do is also geared for maximal political effect.  (In the Dean case, the 30th anniversary of the death of his brother was in mid-December, but Thanksgiving week plays better.)  Nothing will be done without the impacts — both Democrat-positive and Republican-negative — being carefully scoped out, maximized or minimized, and targeted to where the largest impact will be.  Expect to also see some attempts by both sides to pre-empt the stunts of the other.

On the other hand, Bush’s visit to the soldiers in Iraq was, without a doubt, the right (ahem) thing to do.  Discarding the political photo op side of things, it was a brave action to visit a strife zone like that, and it is bound to be a morale boost for the Troops, to know that the President is willing to take that sort of an action and show his direct support for them.  (I’ll stop short of calling Bush a “stud”, though.)

(As for Hillary’s visit to the Troops in Afghanistan, some pundits said it was yet another overture on her part to test the waters for a 2004 Presidential bid, but I think that she would need to have declared by now if she was going to do that.  It was definitely a photo op, and arguably a really good thing to do for the morale of the Troops who are being forgotten about in Afghanistan, what with 99.9% of the media focus having turned to Iraq for the past year.  I can’t help wonder, though, if she didn’t somehow get wind of Bush’s trip, and did hers to suck some of the wind from his sails.)

Updated on October 22, 2010

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