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Bush's Second Great Challenge

I see that two words -- "Get out" -- were a common response.

Another common sentiment: "Finish what he started."

And here's one of the more colorful responses: "First of all, what the (swear word) are you lying about? Why are we there? We don't know why so just get the (swear word) out of there. Stop playing games. Why are we fighting a war for these reasons? My son's there, where's your son?"

The Most Important Speech Nobody Heard

Although it was eclipsed by the hurricane, Bush yesterday delivered a speech about the war in Iraq that not only offered a new rationale for victory, but upped the war's rhetorical ante.

Here's the text of the speech.

Jennifer Loven writes for the Associated Press: "President Bush on Tuesday answered growing anti-war protests with a fresh reason for American troops to continue fighting in Iraq: protection of the country's vast oil fields that he said would otherwise fall under the control of terrorist extremists. . . .

"A one-time oilman, Bush has rejected charges that the war in Iraq is a struggle to control the nation's vast oil wealth. While Bush has avoided making links between the war and Iraq's oil reserves, the soaring cost of gasoline has focused attention on global petroleum sources.

"Bush said the Iraqi oil industry, already suffering from sabotage and lost revenues, must not fall under the control of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida forces in Iraq led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

" 'If Zarqawi and bin Laden gain control of Iraq, they would create a new training ground for future terrorist attacks,' Bush said. 'They'd seize oil fields to fund their ambitions. They could recruit more terrorists by claiming a historic victory over the United States and our coalition.' "

James Sterngold writes in the San Francisco Chronicle: "President Bush, in perhaps his starkest and most contentious depiction of the stakes in Iraq, characterized the war there as a battle over the fate of democracy, just like World War II, and suggested that the only alternative was a dangerous retreat that would embolden terrorists.

"The president used a speech Tuesday marking the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II to offer an implicit, but harsh critique of previous presidents, including Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, for not responding more forcefully to earlier terrorist attacks. . . .

"He likened the wars he launched in Afghanistan and Iraq to the war launched by President Franklin Roosevelt, and he suggested that those urging a withdrawal from Iraq were dishonoring the sacrifices made by U.S. sailors and soldiers in World War II. . . .

"[T]he carefully crafted plaudits for that older generation became just a backdrop for the president's appeal for support in the current difficult war in Iraq. Just about every aspect of World War II that Bush described -- the battles to confront tyranny, and the efforts to build democracies in the defeated countries -- became a piece of the analogy he was constructing to the present struggle."

Peter Baker and Josh White write in The Washington Post: "Invoking the spirit of Franklin D. Roosevelt, President Bush on Tuesday cast the war in Iraq as the modern-day moral equivalent of the struggle against Nazi fascism and Japanese imperialism in World War II, arguing that the United States cannot retreat without disastrous consequences."

Baker and White also note this detail of stage management: "Although Bush gave his speech only hundreds of yards from the towering hulk of the USS Ronald Reagan at Naval Air Station North Island, the White House made certain the ship was not in the television shot -- an image that could remind viewers of the president's 2003 speech on the Iraq invasion given on the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln in front of a premature 'Mission Accomplished' banner."

There was a big ship directly behind him, but not the aircraft carrier -- which, as you can see in this White House photo , was at his side.

Peter Wallsten and Tony Perry write in the Los Angeles Times: "The picturesque setting, enthusiastic crowd and historical references contrasted sharply with the political realities facing Bush as he returns today to Washington, where some lawmakers have begun comparing Iraq to Vietnam, a war with far more negative connotations than the Allied victory over Japan and Nazi Germany."

Here are a few excerpts from the speech:

"As we mark this anniversary, we are again a nation at war. Once again, war came to our shores with a surprise attack that killed thousands in cold blood. Once again, we face determined enemies who follow a ruthless ideology that despises everything America stands for. . . .

"Now, as then, our enemies have made their fight a test of American credibility and resolve. Now, as then, they are trying to intimidate free people and break our will. And now, as then, they will fail. . . .

"After September the 11th, 2001, . . . America will not run in defeat, and we will not forget our responsibilities. We have brought down two murderous regimes. We're driving terrorists from their sanctuaries. We're putting the terrorists on the run all across the world."

It was a painstakingly crafted speech, artfully asserting every imaginable parallel between World War II and Iraq, while disregarding any of the important distinctions.

For instance, critics argue that attacking Iraq was a distraction from the war on terror (as if the U.S. had attacked Cuba after Pearl Harbor, rather than Japan) and that continuing to fight there actually makes our most dangerous enemies stronger.

Constitution Watch

Richard W. Stevenson and David E. Sanger write in the New York Times: "Seeking to promote the ratification of the proposed Iraqi constitution without placing more of an American stamp on the process, the Bush administration is planning steps to encourage approval of the new charter while avoiding a specific endorsement or outright campaigning on its behalf, White House officials said Tuesday. . . .

" 'We will continue to be a voice and a facilitator of greater understanding between the three communities,' said Stephen J. Hadley, the national security adviser. 'But it is their document and they will have to take the lead on this point.' "

The Times also spoke to Dan Bartlett, Bush's counselor. And here's a breathtaking act of spin: "In a way, Mr. Bartlett suggested, the insurgency had provided an impetus to Shiites, Kurds and Sunnis to come together by leading them to see the necessity of stabilizing their own country."

Decamping from Crawford

Angela K. Brown writes for the Associated Press: "A woman who led an anti-war protest for nearly a month near President Bush's ranch said Tuesday that she's glad Bush never showed up to discuss her son's death in Iraq, saying the president's absence 'galvanized the peace movement.'

"Cindy Sheehan's comments came as war protesters packed up their campsite near the ranch and prepared to leave Tuesday for a three-week bus tour."

Bush's America

Bush administration critics have long argued that the improving economy that the president often boasts about is in fact not improving the lot of the average American. They may be right.

Jonathan Weisman and Ceci Connolly write in The Washington Post: "Despite robust economic growth last year, 1.1 million more Americans slipped into poverty in 2004, while household incomes stagnated and earnings fell, the Census Bureau reported yesterday. "

David Leonhardt writes in the New York Times: "Even as the economy grew, incomes stagnated last year and the poverty rate rose, the Census Bureau reported Tuesday. It was the first time on record that household incomes failed to increase for five straight years."

So who's benefiting from the economic recovery? Apparently, the very rich.

Where's Cheney?

Vice President Cheney, who has spent part of August at his home outside scenic Jackson, Wyo., remains there today -- although his spokeswoman, Lea Anne McBride, doesn't call it vacation.

"He's working from Wyoming today," McBride told me this morning.

So what is his day like in Jackson? Any fly-fishing on the Snake River during his work day?

"He's already had his morning briefings," McBride said. "He'll have some other internal staff meetings." Beyond that, McBride said, she would have to check and get back to me. I missed her call back but will try to reach her again.

And when is he coming back? "He will certainly be coming back. I'm not able to tell you the day right now. I don't have that handy."

Beer Watch

It turns out that I have a lot of passionate, articulate readers who have a great deal of expertise, mostly personal, when it comes to alcoholism, recovery, and the issue of non-alcoholic beer. (See yesterday 's item on "Bush's Beer.") I will try to do your e-mails justice soon.

It's All About Karl Rove

David Allen writes in the Los Angeles Daily Bulletin about Bush's visit to the James L. Brulte Senior Center on Monday. The center is named after a former state legislator, who attended.

"After Bush's talk, Brulte, who once stayed overnight at the White House, introduced his brothers to the president, the first lady, senior adviser Karl Rove and press secretary Scott McClellan.

"When they left, Brulte's younger brother, Rick, grabbed his arm and said, impressed: 'I didn't know you knew Karl Rove.' "

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