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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 December 2005, 22:57 GMT
Media react to Bush Iraq speech
President Bush speaking at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington
Some described the president as more frank about pre-war intelligence
On the eve of Iraq's parliamentary election, US President George W Bush made a robust defence of the war that toppled Saddam Hussein.

While reaction to the speech has been mixed, many pundits saw it was one of the president's better constructed addresses.

It was also one in which Mr Bush was seen to adopt a more candid tone than before this series of four speeches began.

Washington Post associate editor Robert Kaiser went online for a web chat with the paper's readers to analyse what the president said.

He said: "It was a summation of the other speeches in this series.

"I saw nothing really new in it, but it struck me as a well-constructed speech, perhaps the best statement yet of the administration's current position."

Mr Kaiser added: "The fundamental American dilemma in Iraq now, I think, is that the success of our mission is out of American hands.

"US soldiers, diplomats and construction engineers cannot produce the 'complete victory' that President Bush reiterated today [Wednesday] is his goal. Only Iraqis can do that."

'Candid'

NBC's White House correspondent Bob Kur also said the president had continued the theme of his three previous speeches in which he has been trying to turn round US public opinion.

It's always a treat to hear the president use the 'I am responsible' phrase, but the comments appear to be little more than the same buck-passing the White House has always embraced
Steve Benen
The Carpetbagger Report

"Today the president, not noted for admitting mistakes spoke more candidly than he did before this series of speeches began," Mr Kur said.

"In the first three speeches... the president conceded that there have been problems training Iraqi forces, big problems with the reconstruction effort and other obstacles as well.

"Today the president was more frank about pre-war intelligence.

"The president's hope is that a successful Iraqi election tomorrow will give him more time to try to make his case."

'Buck-passing'

Bloggers were also among the first to react to the president's words.

Steve Benen of The Carpetbagger Report is a freelance writer, researcher, and political consultant. He said he was not sure the speech really broke any new ground, even with Mr Bush accepting responsibility for invading Iraq based on faulty intelligence.

"This isn't exactly a concession that we went to war under false pretences - Bush has acknowledged the problems with pre-war intelligence many times before.

"It's always a treat to hear the president use the 'I am responsible' phrase, but the comments appear to be little more than the same buck-passing the White House has always embraced.

"Indeed, the bigger issue is not that Bush has publicly conceded that 'much of the intelligence turned out to be wrong', but rather that he doesn't much care whether it was right or not."

This was a theme taken up by Timothy Lowenhaupt, on blog.maidix.org.

"Does claiming responsibility for taking the country to war based on faulty intelligence, and then saying that we are working to fix our errors and the mess, truly excuse his actions?" he asks.

"Does using the term 'faulty intelligence' really explain what happened, or is it a rhetorical game to take the blame without really having to take the fall?"

The site Mike's America - run by a former staffer with the US Environmental Protection Agency, hit out at the Democrat response to the speech.

"Once again, a point by point recitation of our goals, our methods, how they have adapted to events and a response to his [the president's] critics.

"And the Defeaticrat response? More of the same defeatism which paralyses that political party from offering anything constructive at a time of war."

'Uptick in polls'

Meanwhile, the New York Times website focused on how the president "lashed back at critics even while acknowledging mistakes and misperceptions by his administration".

Writer David Stout noted: "Mr Bush sought to disarm those who have criticised his policy and accused him of manipulating intelligence about Saddam Hussein's weapons arsenal in the run-up to war.

"He portrayed his most outspoken critics as sunshine patriots - 'politicians who saw the same intelligence I saw' and supported the war early on, yet now talk of quitting, to the detriment of American troops' morale."

On Fox News.com, Liza Porteus noted that "since the White House put Bush on the offensive with four speeches against war critics and others calling for timetables for troop withdrawal, the president has seen a slight uptick in his formerly sagging poll numbers".

A CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll released on the eve of the speech suggested Mr Bush's PR offensive was having some effect.

Some 48% of respondents to the poll said they thought it was a mistake to send US troops to Iraq, as opposed to 54% of those polled last month.

Fifty percent said it was not a mistake, compared to 45% last month. The president's approval rating was 42% - up 4% from November.




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