President Bush’s munchkins tell us that President Bush’s trip to Baghdad was planned "weeks ago." So was Senator Hilary Clinton’s. Because Clinton travels with a presidential-style Secret service entourage, her Afghanistan/Iraq travel plans were no secret to the Bush administration.
I think it is wonderful that the president went to Iraq. But I can’t help thinking that Hillary Clinton’s trip had a lot to do with the president’s surprise travel itinerary.
It would have been embarrassing, and therefore intolerable, if the only senior American political official to visit Iraq during the Thanksgiving period was Hillary Clinton. Embarrassing. Intolerable. Something had to be done.
Thus, it is likely that Bush did the best of deeds for the basest of motives: to preempt negative media coverage, and comparisons, which would have inevitably followed if Clinton’s trip had been the only high level visit to Iraq.
"Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth," or a presidential visit. The troops needed a lift. Bush delivered. I salute him for it (or maybe I better not salute him, because he gets carried away with this commander-in-chief stuff).
What is amazing today is that although many of us debate what went wrong in Iraq, very few people in the political arena advocate a precipitous withdrawal. Bush’s trip, and his remarks, ensure that the 2004 election will be about Iraq.
Indeed, the emanations from the Hawza in Najaf seem to accept a temporary American presence. The ayatollahs want us to organize Iraqi elections, and then leave. Bush faces pressure to leave Iraq, but not from the Shiite clergy. Not directly.
There is a lot of negotiating going on, below the surface, as we seek to extricate ourselves. Once again, you have to ask, despite Bush’s latest endorsement of Paul Bremer, is Bremer the man you would want representing you in tough negotiations? I don’t think so.
But, enough. We will declare a Thanksgiving truce. Besides, red blooded Republicans will be happy that on Turkey Day, Bush slipped Clinton the bird. Or rather he served up the bird. In Iraq.
Well done Mr. President. The only thing worse than Saddam’s regime remnants is Hillary Clinton’s regime-in-waiting remnants. This time, the real president trumped the would-be president. Good show. And good job.