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(Photo credit to REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque.  Great shot, which truly captures President Bush's petulant mood through the entire press conference yesterday in one snap of the shutter.  Here's my question, if the boss wants to call a presser less than two weeks before an election just to yell at reporters and fillibuster questions for an hour, do you (a) say "yes sir" and start making calls, or (b) try to talk him out of it?  My guess is (a) — thanks, WH staffers!)

While GOP candidates are running around their voting districts trying to talk about anything but the Bush Presidency and the mess that is Iraq, George Bush just could not help but bring the spotlight right back to himself yesterday

With less than two weeks until Election Day, Mr. Bush’s decision to address the war and its problems so prominently carries the risk that he will strengthen the Democrats’ case that the midterm election is primarily a referendum on his own handling of the war.

Republican candidates around the country have been trying for months to de-emphasize the war as an issue, and to distance themselves from Mr. Bush more generally. In an interview with The Concord Monitor in New Hampshire on Tuesday, the Senate majority leader, Bill Frist, said his party’s challenge “is to get Americans to focus on pocketbook issues, and not on the Iraq and terror issue.”

If his party’s candidates want to change the subject, Mr. Bush surely did not help them on Wednesday. While the deteriorating situation in Iraq and the tumult over the war has already thrust the issue to the center of the political stage, Mr. Bush spent more than an hour discussing Iraq with reporters at the White House, acknowledging the overriding importance of the issue and stating flatly that he should ultimately be held accountable.

Thanks, George. No really…thanks. From the idiocy of your attempt to say that you were never about stay the course to yesterday's Mr. Pissy public presser where you attempted to make clear the vast difference between "benchmark" and "timetable" (oh man, good one!), the thin veil between folks believing you and believing you are trying to pull one over on them has been raised a bit more.  Just in time for the elections.

And I have a little more bad news for the WH: they are losing the "mature" folks vote.

America's elderly enjoy outsized influence in elections because they vote in greater numbers, but this year they've focused their clout on the Iraq war more than traditional concerns such as health and retirement benefits.

Poll after poll shows the U.S. war is uppermost in the minds of the gray-haired legions as they help decide whether President George W. Bush's Republican Party will keep control of Congress in the Nov. 7 election.

"The war in Iraq; it upsets me terribly. I think we weren't told the truth," said 85-year-old Florence Feinstein, who recently skipped her afternoon card game to discuss Medicare prescription drug benefits with Democratic congressional representatives at a retiree center in Sunrise, Florida….

Analysts expect the war focus will favor Democrats because voters are in the mood for change and because the strongest anti-war sentiment is among Democrats and independents, who are also more eager to get to the polls than Republicans are.

Mature folks vote…in droves. And if they are this angry about being lied to by the Bush Administration on Iraq, and this disgusted with the Republicans who control both houses of Congress for letting them get away with it, then it could turn out to be a very interesting election indeed.

Let's just say that the media is doing everything it can to muddy the waters a bit, though, on accountability for the mess that is Iraq. From Media Matters, we get the following:

On the October 24 edition of CBS Evening News with Katie Couric, Jim Axelrod and Couric did not bat an eye at the suggestion that the administration might be holding off on changes in Iraq policy until the election. Axelrod reported that a White House official told him, "[D]o not expect to see anything significant prior to Election Day" "as far as a significant change" in the Bush administration's Iraq policy. Axelrod then quoted the official, who said: "You're not going to see anything before November 8th. It would be political suicide, and Karl Rove would never allow it."  (emphasis mine)

So, let me get this straight: October is the bloodiest month we've seen in Iraq in the last year — we have lost somewhere around 96 soldiers this month alone, as I type this — but our soldiers are just going to have to keep gutting things out there under a failed, craptastic policy because changing things now might make George Bush and the Republican party look bad?!?  Oh yeah, by all means, let's put face saving tactics for the GOP ahead of the lives and safety of our soldiers on the ground.

Who are these people?!? 

I happen to have some good friends serving in Iraq at the moment, and their safety and their lives are worth a helluva lot more than George Bush's ego and Karl Rove's election playbook.  And I would bet that the families and friends of every single soldier in Iraq right now would agree with me.  Nice way to put the Republican party's interests ahead of our soldiers and our nation, George.

I'd like to say that this appallingly selfish and power-hungry viewpoint was a surprise — but the fact that it is not just screams volumes as to why so many people in America are talking about the desire for change being a primary factor in their vote come November.

Thomas Ricks calls yesterday's presser for what it was:  an election stunt wherein the President said nothing new, he just tried to coat the same old, same old with a new layer of shiny varnish.  No surprise there — this has been the Bush Administration "stragety" for the last few years:  admit only as much of a problem as you think the public wants to hear about, then go on the attack against anyone who would dare have doubts about the Bush Administration failures, then spend time going on ad nauseum that anyone who has questions lacks sufficient faith in our soldiers and our nation with the caveat that the President is, of course, not questioning their patriotism even though what they are thinking is certainly unpatriotic in his book.  Lather, rinse, repeat.

But then again, what can one expect from a Republican Administration which publicly proclaims that waterboarding is a valuable tool, and leaves it at that?  I think it comes down to the deluded level of thought that keeps pouring out of this Republican Administration at every turn — and Digby nails it with this paragraph:

Did you know that the GWOT is harder and more challenging than any war in human history because the enemy are lethal cold-blooded killers? It is. Nobody has ever faced such a terrifying foe as George W. Bush and we should be grateful that he has courageously faced them down with nothing more than a prayer and a codpiece.

I just lost a great uncle who was very, very dear to me, who floated around in the ocean on an oil drum during WWII, along with a lot of his shipmates who were similarly stuck on tiny bits of floating ship remnants and rafts and other oil drums waiting, and waiting, and waiting for rescue when their battleship was sunk.  And as the hours passed, they watched shipmate after shipmate sink into the water due to injuries or, worse, watched sharks pick them off, one by one, as they clung to what little bits they could and prayed for someone to come and pull them out of the sea. 

George Bush and his stream of excuses and buck-passing and lack of accountability — and the entire Republican party apparatus of refusing to take any responsibility for this utter lack of planning and the strategic mess and blunder that is Iraq…that this is where America is mired today is despicable and cowardly because the Republicans who control policy decisionmaking in Washington haven't had the guts to stand up and say "enough."  

That George Bush would try to stand up and say that "his" fight is somehow more difficult or noble than those that have come before…I cannot even say the words that I am thinking at the moment.

If I had my druthers, George Bush would have to go down to Walter Reed with Rep. Jack Murtha (D-PA) for the day and see just how brave a human being could be. And just what the consequences of holding on to a failed series of policies until after the election can cost…12 days and counting, George. How many soldiers will be maimed? Killed? How many civilians in Iraq caught in the crossfire? How many more people will be asked to die for your mistakes, to keep your ego and the Republican party's hold on power intact, because you refuse to make any changes until after the election, because you and Karl Rove decided it would be a bad political move?

Our soldiers are not pawns.  They are living, breathing human beings with family and friends and children…and they deserve better than this.  America deserves better than this.

Had enough? Vote for Democrats. Because the Republican party cannot be trusted to police themselves — they have had more than five years to be a rubber stamp for the Bush Administration, and look where that has gotten all of us.  Get every person you know to vote for Democrats as well. It is past time to get out our vote and then some.


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Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com