Roger L. Simon

Strange Move by Bush - Initial Reaction

Whatever the realities of war against a foe that blows up innocent people in restaurants, threatening to veto the latest Pentagon spending bill because of an amendment that “sets standards for the treatment of prisoners in U.S. military custody” is not, on the face of it, a smart propaganda move. I don’t know the back room maneuvering behind this bill, but it passed the Senate by 90-9 and it would appear complaining (via Scott McClellan) that the amendment is “redundant” (please!) is just handing yet another club to the war’s opponents. At this point, it would seem the smarter move would have been to have gotten out in front on this amendment and applauded it, especially if it is indeed redundant. If it is not, and there are certain problems embedded in the text, they may not be worth confronting at this point – at least publicly. At the moment, this seems one more example of this administration’s unsure and somewhat unsophisticated hand in the world of public relations.

Of course this is only my preliminary response and, like most blog posts, subject to revision. I invite your comments.

(And, yes, of course, much of this may relate to John McCain’s presidential ambitions but so what? There are larger issues at stake here.)

UPDATE: Apropos Iraq, the Washington Post editorial today is definitely worth reading. In general, the Post has had much less of an ax to grind than the NYT in its coverage of the war and cannot be as easily dismissed. Of course, people on the scene may be somewhat more realistic. Judging progress to democracy in midstream, especially in the Middle East, is more than a little deceiving. In this instance, the old Maoist canard “Two steps forward, one step backwards” seems to apply. In fact, “Three steps forward, four steps backward, five steps forward” might be more like it.