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War Mom vs. Peace Mom

"T. PRUETT: My greatest concern is that we stand firm, that we stand behind the president, that we continue this battle until it's done and we bring all of our boys and women home safely, but not until it's ready."

The Message

Sam Coates and Mike Allen write in The Washington Post: "White House officials said they viewed the speech, the second of three he plans to give in the two weeks before Labor Day, as a crucial opportunity for Bush to show both compassion and resolve when his conduct of the war is increasingly being publicly questioned, and polls of public support are flirting with Vietnam War-era depths. . . .

"Bush's aides said they realize that the death toll in Iraq -- at least 1,867 at the time Bush spoke -- will soon reach 2,000, a milestone that will provide a major platform for his critics. Against this backdrop, the aides said the speech was designed to portray a stark choice between completing the mission in Iraq and showing weakness to terrorists who are prepared to strike in the United States -- suggesting dire consequences at home from a hasty withdrawal abroad. . . .

"Asserting that 'the stakes in Iraq could not be higher,' Bush contended that the nation is 'achieving our strategic objectives in Iraq.' It is that last contention -- that the United States is moving purposely toward its goals and an accompanying exit from Iraq -- that has been subject to growing skepticism by Democrats."

And Bush did not say what those strategic objectives are, either.

Ken Herman writes for Cox News Service: "Repetition of the message is crucial, especially for a president operating in the current universe of neverending news cycles and a dizzying array of interest groups seeking to challenge the Bush message on the war, said White House communications expert Martha Kumar of Towson University."

William Douglas writes for Knight Ridder Newspapers: "Bush's speech Wednesday had the trappings of a campaign event designed to bolster his image as commander-in-chief. A drum corps played the theme of each of the armed forces as the flags of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard passed in review. Bush stood before a group of soldiers in fatigues. They stood ramrod straight in front of a giant red, white and blue backdrop with photos of soldiers, police officers, firefighters and rescue workers and the words 'Honoring America's Heroes,' creating a visual link between the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the war in Iraq."

Middle East Pullout?

Bush yesterday repeated a misleading assertion that he first made Tuesday: That critics of the war in Iraq are also calling for an immediate withdrawal of troops from the broader Middle East.

"An immediate withdrawal of our troops in Iraq or the broader Middle East, as some have called for, would only embolden the terrorists and create a staging ground to launch more attacks against America and free nations," Bush said.

Yesterday morning, three news organizations -- Agence France Presse, the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times -- called attention to this mischaracterization. See yesterday's column for links.

But today, several news organizations -- including The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the Associated Press and Knight Ridder -- published Bush's assertion unchallenged.

Only AFP noted, again: "It was not clear how many protesters, if any, want the United States to retreat from the Middle East entirely."

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