Bush Drops Into Baghdad For A PR Stunt
Bush's earlier phony turkey stunt in Baghdad
At a time when two new polls disagreed on any al-Zarqawi effect, Bush made an overnight flight to Baghdad last night to visit Prime Minister al-Maliki and participate with him on a conference call that was scheduled today between the Iraqi cabinet and the Bush national security team.
According to the media, Bush's own team was surprised that Bush left Camp David in the middle of the night to go to Baghdad, as they were expecting to have breakfast with him this morning before the teleconference with Baghdad. According to Newsweek's Richard Wolffe and Holly Bailey, the trip was a PR stunt that was planned weeks ago to show support for the new Iraqi government, but was delayed when the Iraqis could not agree on filling the remaining defense and interior ministries. So Bush's latest "turkey in Baghdad" moment had to wait until the Iraqis were ready.
Bush's visit to the Iraqis in the Green Zone, and with American troops today is a good PR stunt that, along with the al-Zarqawi killing last week, is designed to drive up Bush's poll numbers here at home (for an administration that doesn't follow polls). With Rove getting a letter yesterday saying he was in the clear on the Plame matter, I can see where he and Bush thought this was a good way to put a lot of bad news behind them and make it look like the Administration was turning a corner both in Baghdad and in Washington. But it is also possible that this trip was simply an extension of yesterday's media event at Camp David, which was also designed to show that things are about to get better in Iraq.
Rove, for his part, is already telling friendly audiences that if the Democrats were in charge, al-Zarqawi would still be alive and Iraq would fall to terrorists. Of course, no one in the media mentions that it was Bush who kept al-Zarqawi alive for these last four years, or that there was no al-Qaeda in Iraq before Bush invaded. Rove also is blasting war veterans John Kerry and John Murtha as people who want to "cut and run" from Iraq. I forget, what war did Rove and Bush fight in? Oh, that's right, both of them dodged combat.
According to Gallup (of course), the good news from Iraq has led to a significant increase in Bush’s poll numbers, and on all issues. According to the latest USAT/Gallup poll out this morning, Bush’s approval rating is now up to 38% from its low of 31% last month, but this appears to be as a result of more Republicans and fewer independents showing up in their samples of late. After weeks of samples that had more independents in them than Republicans, the sample for this latest Gallup poll was 37% Democrat, 35% Republicans, and only 27% independents, a drop of almost ten points in the number of self-identified independents in just a month. This is a smaller Democratic advantage than polls by other pollsters over the last year, but even this poll shows a double-digit advantage for the Democrats in the 2006 generic ballot question.
However, a CBS News poll done at the same time as the Gallup poll does not show any bump for Bush from the al-Zarqawi killing, and in fact shows Bush’s approval rating dropping another 2 points from 35% to 33%.
As evidenced by the conflicting polls, it isn't clear if Bush will get a bump from the al-Zarqawi killing. But when the Democrats have nothing of consequence to say in opposition and provide no compelling reason for voters to switch their attention away from the party in power, it leaves room for the incumbent and his media machine to snatch back the spotlight and take advantage of the trappings of power.
The truth is that the American public wants to turn the page on Iraq. They are hoping for a happy ending, but are resigned to the fact that it was a mistake.