Presidential Address Blogging
Overall, I thought it was a solid performance. His choice of venue was smart, not only from a symbolic standpoint but also because he is much more effective addressing a live audience than a television camera. He sounded several important themes and made it clear that there is indeed a plan for the transition, much of it already underway without fanfare.
Aside from the standard business about American resolve, the main theme of the speech seemed to be to contrast ordinary, decent Iraqis from the terrorist enemy. He started out with references to last week’s presidential assassination and the Berg beheading and made it a point time and again to note that these are the actions of tyrants and ideologues, not pious Muslims.
Along those lines, constant references were made to successes that the Iraqi people themselves have had in making their own lives better. Several times, Bush talked about the natural resistance to foreign occupation–a term he had resisted using in the past but used repeatedly tonight–and the need to quickly shift responsibility for Iraqi to Iraqis. He pointed out that many ministries are already being run by Iraqis and that they have taken increased responsibility for their own security, notably in Fallujah. The idea that Iraq is “their country” was hammered time and again.
There was much more specificity as to the nature and timeline of the transition than I’ve seen before, certainly in a coherent, concentrated format. The idea that elections will take place no later than January 2005 was new to me, indicating that they may take place sooner. That the “transitional” government so elected would write the final constitution, which would be validated by referendum in the fall of 2005 with a “permanent” government elected by the end of 2005 also makes sense and is a reasonable timeline. The idea that he “sent troops to make Iraqis free, not American” was also very well done.
The only significant gaffe was the repeated inability to pronounce Abu Ghraib, which was mildly amusing but strange given how much it’s been on the news. That it will be torn down is good news, although rather late in the game.
The bottom line was that the speech, while hardly Churchilian in its eloquence, gave the impression that we have a clue about what we’re doing and that the transition to a free Iraq is well underway. He also downplayed expectations a bit in several places, which I think perfectly reasonable. We’ll see how it plays out in the weeks ahead.
Update: My standard around the blogroll roundup is updated with overnight and early morning reaction:
- John Quiggen is happy about the prison demolotion but hopes more will come.
- Tim Cavanaugh thinks the troop level numbers are Clintonian.
- Glenn Reynolds may post something later.
- The gang at The Corner live blogged it.
- Robert Prather wishes Bush would do this more often.
- Jon Henke had life intrude on speech watching and blogging.
- Phil Carter found the location ironic and is still dubious about the terrorism connection.
- Michele Catalano watched from a crowded family restaurant with a crowded family.
- It cured Rob Tagorda‘s insomnia, earning a “B” in his book.
- Andrew Sullivan gave it a “B+” even though it mentioned nothing about the plight of unmarried gay Iraqis.
- Matt Yglesias thinks the speech read very well,although the clips weren’t very good.
- Jeff Goldstein reacts–and sums up the views of the Atrios readership, sparing you the trouble of wading through his comments section.