President Bush on Monday was continuing his efforts to bypass what he calls the media “filter” on Iraq, making his case in a series of television interviews that U.S.-led coalition forces are making progress in stabilizing the war-torn nation.
Bush was granting interviews to TV outlets that don’t routinely cover the White House in an effort to get out his message on Iraq.
The interviews are part of a week-old administration counterattack against critics of the war and its aftermath. It has included speeches by Bush, Vice President Cheney and even first lady Laura Bush.
Bush complained last week that the “filter” of the news media is blocking positive developments from reaching Americans, and he opened a public-relations offensive to present an alternative view.
In his weekly radio address on Saturday, Bush said Iraq is a place where markets are bustling, shelves are full, oil is flowing and satellite dishes are sprouting up.
“Since the liberation of that country, thousands of new businesses have been launched,” Bush said. “With our assistance, Iraqis are building the roads and ports and railways necessary for commerce.”
Bush noted other developments: an independent central bank; a new system to absorb foreign capital; a new currency.
The public relations effort comes as polls show Americans increasingly worried about the Bush administration’s Iraq policy.
The polls, and continuing violence in Iraq, have emboldened Bush’s critics.
On Sunday, three senior Democratic senators, including presidential candidate John Kerry, lashed out against Bush’s postwar policies and the way his administration moved to war in the first place.
Kerry said that the Bush administration needs to recruit more military help in Iraq and bring the United Nations fully into the picture to have a chance to deter anti-U.S. violence.
“We need to go to the United Nations more humbly, more directly, more honestly, solicit help in a way that brings the United Nations into this effort, or you are going to continue to see bomb after bomb after bomb,” the Massachusetts senator said.
Kerry, on ABC’s “This Week,” said Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney should apologize “for having misled America, for not having kept his promises of working adequately within the international community, not having built a legitimate international coalition, not having exhausted the process of the inspections.”
“And, most importantly, not having gone to war as a matter of last resort, which is what he promised to America.”
On “Fox News Sunday,” Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, senior Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, also accused Bush of misleading the country about the war.
“We did not go to war to bring democracy and prosperity and peace to Iraq,” Rockefeller said. “And what’s ironic is that, in spite of the incredible job that our soldiers and Guard and the Reserve have done, we really are in more peril today than we were at the end of the formal part of the war.”
“What we have not done is prosecuted the postwar era with any skill at all.”
Bush declared major combat ended in his May 1 talk aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln.
ADMINISTRATION INFIGHTING SEEN
The top two members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee agreed that infighting within the administration over Iraq policy has hurt Bush. They urged him to take direct charge.
“The president has to be the president, over the vice president and over these secretaries,” committee chairman Dick Lugar, R-Ind., said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Appearing with Lugar, ranking committee Democrat Joseph Biden of Delaware added:
“There’s no clear articulation within this administration of what the goals, what the message is, what the plan is. You have this significant division within the administration between the Powells and the Rumsfelds.”
Since early in the administration, Secretary of State Colin Powell has counseled a generally more moderate line than Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. Even before the Iraq war in the spring, tales of tension and turf battles between their departments were widespread.
Asked what he would tell Bush should they meet, Biden replied: “I would say, ‘Mr. President, take charge. Take charge. Settle this dispute.”’
He added that Bush should tell Powell, Rumsfeld and Cheney: “This is my policy. Any one of you that divert from the policy is off the team.”
Lugar predicted American forces may have to be in Iraq in some capacity for eight years or more. He and Biden both said Iraq’s recovery would cost at least $50 billion more than the $87 billion, including more than $20 billion for the recovery, that Bush has requested and is pending in Congress.