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Last Updated: Wednesday, 29 June, 2005, 03:27 GMT 04:27 UK
Media sees nothing new from Bush
By Matthew Davis
BBC News, Washington

Early domestic reaction to President Bush's keynote speech suggests that the US leader may have won himself more time over Iraq, but few new hearts and minds.

Bush speaks at Fort Bragg

The message went out live on prime time television, despite rumours in the run-up to the speech that one or more of the networks might chose not to run it.

Speaking immediately after the end of Mr Bush's address, CNN's Paula Zahn said: "If anyone was looking for a shift in the president's strategy, they did not find it here."

But Morton Kondracke, executive editor of the Washington DC newspaper Roll Call, praised the president's vision.

"I really think this was one of the best speeches that George Bush has ever delivered," he said on Fox News.

"It was rich in strategic content. It was a large strategic vision of where he sees this conflict going.

"It seems to me that if people heard it tonight then they would have more confidence in what we are doing than before they tuned in."

We got into Iraq the wrong way, lets get out the right way
MoveOn.org's new TV ad

Under the headline, "Bush urges Americans not to waver on Iraq", The New York Times said the president "sought to rally the American people behind his Iraq policy tonight, urging them to look beyond the daily carnage, and indeed their own doubts, and see a path to victory."

But the paper also noted that even before the speech some on Capitol Hill were suggesting that "it was not America's resolve but the judgment of its leader that was in doubt".

'Unusual venue'

NBC pushed back the opening episode of its hit reality dating show, Average Joe, to accommodate the president' address.

Anchor Brian Williams suggested that Fort Bragg, in North Carolina, had been an "unusual venue for an address to the nation".

Reports later said that the make-up of the military audience there was 50% Republican, 23% Democrat and 27% independent.

Meanwhile, anti-war groups had unveiled television adverts as a counter to the president's speech.

The liberal-leaning MoveOn.org was releasing two new TV ads with the message: "We got into Iraq the wrong way, lets get out the right way".

The two 30-second spots were set to air just minutes before the president's speech on national cable networks - and are part of a $500,000 television and print campaign.

CNN presenter Wolf Blitzer said it was "important to know that the president was very specific on the issue of troop levels - saying he responds to what the commanders on the ground ask".

With a nod to the American public, whose support for the president's Iraq policy has been in decline, the network's White House reporter Dana Bash said: "This was about buying time".

USA Today also noted that Mr Bush "outlined no major new policy initiatives".

"Instead [he used] the forum to directly speak to Americans about the Iraq war," the paper added.

'Shameful cover'

Alongside the post speech analysis from the major TV and radio networks, there was instant punditry from the blogosphere.

It was like the audience at a presidential debate, which has been cautioned not to express approval or disapproval
John Hinderaker
Power Line

A number of people were "live-blogging" the event, among them a writer on Wonkette, annotating Mr Bush's comments with observations.

Among the cleaner entries were:

"8:00: Look at the soldiers. Or, as they're also known, "props."

"8:27: Operative wisdom: 'If evil is not confronted, it gains in strength.' Does that explain Cheney's clean bill of health?"

Lawyer and public policy commentator John Hinderaker - on the blog Power Line, described the speech as "Clear, confident, substantive".

"The only thing I thought was odd was the unnatural quiet in the hall," he added.

"It was like the audience at a presidential debate, which has been cautioned not to express approval or disapproval. Only at the end, apparently, were the soldiers permitted to applaud."

Meanwhile, Tim Grieve on Salon.com, asked: "Would it be too much to ask the cable networks to run some words from the 9/11 Commission under his picture in the crawl?

"We're thinking about something like, "'No evidence' of a 'collaborative relationship' between Iraq and al-Qaeda."

"Yes, the United States is fighting terrorists in Iraq now. But that's not why the US started the war, and it's a shameful cover for failing to offer a real plan for ending it," Grieve added.




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