Last Night: The President's Speech

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President Bush just addressed the nation with his highly anticipated "new strategy in Iraq" speech. You know the signs: The assembly of "the best political team on television," Jack Cafferty sharing reader comments, looking like a guy who left a half-finished beer on the bar to step outside to make an annoying phone call, Paula Zahn making jokes, Wolf Blitzer clutching his pen like a school marm's pointer and–the best part–the CNN "big event" shot clock.

To begin, a nervous looking Bush with wrinkled brow and a somber suit confirmed what we have known all week–his administration has decided to send more than 20,000 troops to Iraq. He delivered this news in a softly lit room with a mantle and  bookshelf in the background to make it more of a "conversation," according to his aides. Then he went on to add a bit of new information–the troops will now be allowed to go into neighborhoods that they weren't allowed to go in before.  "Greenlighted," Bush said. 

A speech that struck me as uncharacteristically short on soundbites, Bush did admit that any mistakes were his responsibility. But, as Candy Crowley said before speech, the administration is no longer expecting the "big bounce" in approval points that previous presidential speeches for the war have garnered.

Ultimately, what the president had to say was stunningly deficient on political strategy–and full of promises that the poll numbers Blitzer offered during the broadcast indicate Americans suspect he is  never going to be able to keep. Both Bush's speech and CNN's coverage seemed like a lot of build-up, and nobody–not the journalists, not John McCain who spoke in support, and certainly not the democrats–seemed very optimistic at the end.

By Caroline Palmer

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