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Last Updated: Monday, 19 December 2005, 12:02 GMT
Press finds new tone in Bush speech
In this image taken from television, President Bush speaks to the nation in his first address from the Oval Office since he announced the invasion of Iraq in March of 2003, Sunday Dec. 18, 2005
President Bush acknowledged the situation in Iraq was tough
US President George W Bush has made his fifth speech on Iraq in under three weeks, and his first prime time address from the Oval Office since he launched the invasion in 2003.

In it, commentators agree, Mr Bush struck a more humble tone that he has in previous addresses, but continued to sound confident about his decision to continue with the mission in Iraq and its eventual success.

Many pundits note, however, that it did not give any details on how that success may be achieved.

Peter Barker, writing in The Washington Post, notes that President Bush acknowledged the difficulties the US military had experienced in Iraq, with "violence and suffering" inflicted by a "brutal enemy" and reconstruction under way "more slowly that we hoped".

Rather than dismissing critics with a wave of the hand and an acid retort... he asked those who opposed the invasion to help make the biggest gamble of his presidency work
David Sanger
New York Times
Barker writes: "For a president traditionally resistant to acknowledging miscues, such a concession amounts to a stark political change."

But the commentator also stresses that Mr Bush distinguishes "between honest critics who recognise what is wrong and defeatists who refuse to see that anything is right".

Despite the new tone of Mr Bush's latest speech, however, Barker says that a rocketing death toll, which rose by more than a 30 in a series of attacks following the election, will "sear deeper into the American consciousness than any Oval Office speech".

David E Sanger in The New York Times also notes that Mr Bush did not resort to his usual dismissal of critics "with a wave of the hand and an acid retort". But he also stresses that the president reiterated his insistence that the US will be victorious.

'Christmas present'

Sanger says that the use of the term "defeatists" is at the heart of his new argument - that the biggest threat to such victory is not the insurgency, but that the American public will withdraw its support for the war.

The Miami Herald quotes Republican Senator John McCain as saying that reducing casualties in Iraq was key to sustaining public support, and this would be difficult as long as corruption and militias impact on the effectiveness of the Iraqi military.

The paper notes that this latest speech was a summation of Mr Bush's previous four addresses over the last 19 days, and did not offer anything new.

This is also highlighted by The Los Angeles Times. It quotes Democrat Senator Dianne Feinstein as saying: "It was a restatement of the justification for the war, of how important it is to win, but he didn't really talk about what it's going to take to win," she says.

The site Mike's America - a blog run by a former staffer with the US Environmental Protection Agency - was however wholly positive about Mr Bush's latest speech.

"With that shining ribbon on top, President Bush wrapped up the encore to his VICTORY in Iraq speeches like a well dressed Christmas present. Explaining as best he has to date, in direct, clear and concise words what we have achieved in Iraq and what we have yet to do; while admitting where we have gone wrong. "

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