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Marketing Iraq: Why now?

CNN's Bill Schneider  

By William Schneider
CNN Senior Political Analyst

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- There's a big question hanging over President Bush's Iraq policy: Why now? Why, more than 11 years after the Gulf War, is it suddenly so urgent for the U.S. to go after Saddam Hussein now?

Some people are asking, is President Bush's Iraq offensive being driven by the fall election? An idea the vice president calls ``reprehensible.''

"The suggestion that I find reprehensible is the notion that somehow, you know, we saved this and now we've sprung it on them for political reasons," Vice President Dick Cheney said on NBC's "Meet the Press" last week.

But some people in very high places are warning that a life-and-death policy like Iraq "must not be a simple matter of political convenience, " as U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Thursday.

What's the political convenience? Strategist Dick Morris spelled it out in a recent column: ``Polls show that only one issue works in Bush's favor: terrorism.''

President Bush addressing the U.N. General Assembly Thursday.
President Bush addressing the U.N. General Assembly Thursday.  

Does Morris think the president is, as they say, ``wagging the dog'' to divert attention from other issues?

``He doesn't need to wag the dog,'' Morris writes. ``He just needs to talk about wagging it to make the impact to keep control of Congress.''

Even the White House has hinted at a political strategy. As long ago as last January, Bush strategist Karl Rove said, "We can also go to the country on this issue because they trust the Republican Party to do a better job of protecting and strengthening America's military and thereby protecting America."

Why did the Administration wait until September to make its case against Iraq? White House chief of staff Andrew Card told The New York Times last week, ``From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in August.''

In his speech to the United Nations, President Bush tried to shut down the political speculation. This is a life-and-death matter, the President insisted. "Sound Iraq acquire fissile material, it would be able to build a nuclear weapon within a year," he told the U.N. General Assembly in New York Thursday.

To those who say, we want more evidence that there's a real threat, the Administration says, we can't wait for a smoking gun to turn up. "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud," National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice said on CNN's Late Edition recently.

To those who smell politics, the administration's answer is, sure, a crisis may benefit the president politically. So what? An issue of this magnitude should be the focus of a political campaign. What's wrong with that?




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