Falling for the Spin

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 5, 2007; 9:40 AM

President Bush got the headlines he wanted with his Labor Day drop-by in Iraq.

New York Times: "Bush, In Iraq, Says Troop Reduction is Possible."

Los Angeles Times: "Bush Hints at Troop Reduction."

Washington Times: "In Anbar, Bush Optimistic for Pullout."

But when you stick a fork into what he actually said, the souffl? collapses. A troop reduction is no more likely today than it was yesterday. The president himself gave away the game in his interview with Katie.

COURIC: But just hearing those two words, "troop reduction" -- Do you think it will win some people over who are uncomfortable with this war?

BUSH: That was just speculating. It's not going to win anybody over until it becomes a reality.

Just speculating--and yet that became the media's lead.

Which leads me to another question: How come Bush gets to ask everyone to wait for the Petraeus report, but he can go on about the surge's progress and how it would be a mistake to pull out? The wait-and-see admonition doesn't apply to him?

It was obviously a PR coup for the president to be photographed with the troops in Anbar, a place where the military has clearly achieved results, and to dominate a slow news day. But I happened to be in a hotel breakfast place when news of Bush's surprise trip broke on a local newscast. No one looked up or started talking about it. I wonder whether many Americans have tuned Bush out on Iraq.

The president's memory is a bit cloudy, as this NYT piece demonstrates:

"A previously undisclosed exchange of letters shows that President Bush was told in advance by his top Iraq envoy in May 2003 of a plan to 'dissolve Saddam's military and intelligence structures,' a plan that the envoy, L. Paul Bremer, said referred to dismantling the Iraqi Army.

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