Tuesday, January 23, 2007
The war that swallowed a presidency

Smoke rises from twin car bombings Monday that killed scores of Iraqis in Baghdad.

Americans have a lot of issues that concern them these days: Immigration, health care, the environment, personal debt, housing prices. That's just to name a few.

But there is only one real issue in front of President Bush right now: Iraq.

Polls of Americans and foreigners alike show that majorities disapprove of the way President Bush is conducting the war in Iraq and question whether the United States is still a positive influence in the world.

The president is planning to send more troops, talking about the need for stabilization and a promise of better times, but in Washington, even members of his own party are skeptical. And the newly empowered Democrats are circling like dogs around a soup bone.

Sure, President Bush is engaging other topics. The White House is talking about "bold" legislatives initiatives and the need for bipartisan support to the keep the nation moving forward. The State of the Union is supposed to be the moment for a president to discuss such things, to weave a grand tapestry of his visions for the nation.

But Iraq is relentless. Some Republicans fear that unless the White House can somehow turn Iraq around or defuse it as a political time bomb, worry about the war will undermine every idea put forward by their party. They worry, quite openly, that if President Bush wants to protect his legacy, he may have to compromise on all sorts of other issues to get Democratic support.

Saddam Hussein was undeniably a terrible guy. He imposed unspeakable suffering on his own citizens and ruled with the despicable force of all tyrants. President Bush put an end to that. But in the process, the war he launched became something more. It morphed into the definining characteristic of his presidency for both good and bad.

So with two years left before he leaves office, here's my question: Can the president get any traction on any other legislation while the future of Iraq remains up for grabs?
Posted By Tom Foreman, CNN Correspondent: 6:16 PM ET
  42 Comments
I think there are so other many issues from our absence in africa to the problems in americas education system, that Bush cant see past preserving his own legacy and being the "selfless hero" in this war to really get any hold on how to improve the other problems gripping our nation.
Posted By Anonymous marissa, independence, MO : 7:46 PM ET
While Bush is struggling with the war in Iraq how can he get suport for other legislation such as health care coverage? We have an awful large price tag on the war and with it being up in the air, no reasonable american is going to support his proposed health care plan that is tailored for the wealthy. We need to get out of Iraq first, and wrap up the war before we tackle other important issues sucah as health care and social security reform.
Posted By Anonymous Tamara, Loveland, Colorado : 7:50 PM ET
Can he get traction on any other issue in his final two years? Fat chance! The man has the Midas touch. His only problems is that everything he touches turn to Kaa Kaa, not Gold. This coupled with the fact that he is truly dilusional about most real world sitations makes it highly unlikely that his administration can accomplish anything positive at all.
Posted By Anonymous Brett Diver, Miami Florida : 7:56 PM ET
Saddam was terrible but the arrogance President Bush demonstrated in those early days was unfortunate too. This administration thought 'Shia' and 'Sunni' were two different types of 'FAJITAS' and that's about the amount of importance they gave to understanding the long simmering quagmire that is Iraq; or Arab culture. In that respect and that respect ONLY; they were crusaders.
There were no WMD and no OBL in Iraq. VP Cheney's spurious quasi intellectual arguments and his sweeping foreign policy genaralizations for uninterested americans still ring in our ears.
Forget the iraqis and focus on 'US'. We've lost 25000+ young americans to either death or severe injury, lost our allies and in access of a trillion dollars. We're slipping in research and education, NASA is underfunded. With a trillion dollars we could've put a man on Saturn!!! This president's vision has been extremely limited.
Posted By Anonymous nimesh OKC, Oklahoma : 8:02 PM ET
With so many of our soldiers and Iraqi citizens dying on a daily basis, the main focus for American citizens, Congress and the President should stay centered on Iraq.

As you said, Saddam was an evil ruler, but we all know that's not the reason the Bush administration got us into this quagmire. It won't do any good to investigate the lies and manipulations which led us into this war. There will be time enough for that later.

Right now, Congress and the President must focus on somehow disengaging our troops from Iraq. If they fail, it's up to the American voters to elect those who can in 2008.
Posted By Anonymous Joseph Kowalski, North Huntingdon, PA : 8:14 PM ET
Hi Tom,
I'm going to take an unpopular stance on this one. I want to hear the President's State of the Union speech. I want to hear his words and make up my own mind, minus the willy nilly pundits on both sides, who will sift his words through their own sieve. I want our country united. It seems like an impossible dream, but a country divided hurts all of us more than it does any politician's career. Take Care
Posted By Anonymous Lorie Ann, Buellton, Calif. : 8:15 PM ET
Bush got us into this mess. He lied, he manipulated information, he invoked, and will tonite, at his SOTU address, September 11th to justify his unwarranted attack on a sovereign nation. He has used fear and deceipt to remain in office and will to the end of his term.
His "escalation plan" is appaling and a slap in the face to the American voter. I suggest sending only 1 more troop to Iraq...him.
Then and only then, maybe the gutless war dodger can see for himself the danger he has put people in and the destruction he imposed.
Posted By Anonymous John Nagel, The Colony, TX : 8:17 PM ET
President Bush has destroyed any credibility he might have once had. His inability to make smart decisions combined with his willingness to let others make decisions on a ruthless ideological basis has had disastrous results. He didn't listen to anyone then, why should anyone listen to him now?
Posted By Anonymous Lis Jessie, Cleveland, Ohio : 8:26 PM ET
Any other "feel-good" legislation is going to seem like a bribe to placate a very disgruntled electorate. Iraq is the elephant in the room that can't be masked by any clever distraction, such as calls for better health care, more efficient energy policy, love thy neighbor, yadda yadda, etc. In a word, this presidency is toast. Webb will make that clear.
Posted By Anonymous David DeLoof, Ann Arbor, MI : 8:27 PM ET
I don't know if anyone in Washington can get traction on legislation! I have been following your story about the members of Congress who get pensions after going to jail. After watching Anderson's reports- I wonder how much really can get done. I know the House passed the initiatives they wanted to in their first 100 hours, but I also know that the Senate needs to pass similiar legislation in order for it to take effect. I wonder how many of those initiatives will "die" just sitting waiting for a committee to look at them. I will watch tonight with some skepticism that any ideas put forward can actually be implemented successfully. What a sad feeling!
Posted By Anonymous Pamina, Pittsford, NY : 8:29 PM ET
President Bush is a lame-duck president with no political capitol. Nothing he proposes will gain any traction in a Democrat controlled Congress. The country will not see any answers to such problems as Health Care, Social Security, Energy Dependence, or Global Warming until after the 2008 election!
Posted By Anonymous Brian Columbus, Ohio : 8:43 PM ET
It seems unlikely that Bush will get much done in his last two years. Even proposals that might look as a move towards the center (like his health care tax aimed at taxing people getting higher than average health care compensation) will be slammed by the Democratic Congress looking for a bit of revenge. And that's a pity.
Posted By Anonymous Brandon Sonderegger, Redwood City, CA : 8:46 PM ET
That is a sketchy question. President Bush will forever be branded with Iraq and it's difficult to say if that will be alleviated during the remaining days of his presidency. He's admitted to being a "war President" and that's most likely how he'll be remembered.

Frankly, I don't think he's invested enough energy into anything else to gain traction. There is a lot of effort to be made to revert attention, that is, if he so chooses.
Posted By Anonymous Aruna, Minneapolis, MN : 8:48 PM ET
W did not have any meanginful policies to offer the average americans before 9/11 and since then he has nothing to offer the world as the president of these United States except bloodletting. What a tragic waste of 8 years for this great nation and for the poor, decent iraqis.
Posted By Anonymous mike tango, KSA : 8:49 PM ET
You title your story "The war that swallowed a presidency." All I can say is it is still better than "The intern that swallowed a presidency."
Posted By Anonymous Robert Mazzrillo, Chesapeake VA : 8:52 PM ET
It is somewhat ironic that this president, who went to such lengths to avoid service in Viet Nam, is now
"trapped" in a "Viet Nam" entirely of his own making. Too bad U.S service men & women, as well as the U.S taxpayer, must pay the price for his stupidity.
Posted By Anonymous Fred, St. Louis MO : 8:56 PM ET
The war was started for false reasons and the expectation that Iraqis would greet the U.S. with open arms indicates that there was no understanding of the geopolitics of the region.
That being said, the situation now offers two outcomes: leave or fight it out. I think that leaving will injure U.S. credibility with the rest of the world, especially middle eastern nations, more than staying and fighting. The Kurds, for instance, would be betrayed again like they were in the first Gulf War and the Sunnis would likely be slaughtered in large numbers.
Posted By Anonymous Neil, Toronto Ontario : 8:59 PM ET
Speaking on behalf of the International Community, most certainly the part of it that isn't even dealing with gunfire and explosions on a daily basis, allow me to be the first to say that we, collectively, couldn't give a damn about George W. Bush's "Legacy". The realities of what has occured due to his actions and inactions are hard truths; truths which won't be altered by the careful choice of words that, undoubtedly, will skew future public opinion. Whether you stand supportive of the president or not, concern for his "Legacy" is far removed from what our priorities should reflect. That being said, it is then inevitable that the cronisym of Washington will turn and bend its collective Will to that very triviality as opposed to addressing the real needs.
Posted By Anonymous Brad R., Alberta, Canada : 9:02 PM ET
President Bush will find it dificult to push through new legislation that is not overwhelmingly popular with Congress because of his performance in the Iraq situation. No trusts his judgement any more nor the judgement of members of his administration. If they can be that wrong about Iraq how can we believe them on any other issue??
Posted By Anonymous John, Los Angeles, CA : 9:07 PM ET
You say, "the war he launched became something more. It morphed into the definining characteristic of his presidency for both good and bad." Excuse me, but where's the good? Remember, by his own admission Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, and Osama continues to evade -- so how exactly does this war make America safer? It hasn't, and now it's more about protecting the justifications he's made throughout his presidency than any protection for the US. This is only amplified by the fact that he's been so focused on Iraq that he hasn't done anything positive for the US -- nothing for poverty, nothing for healthcare, nothing for educationm, nothing to unite the divide -- so again I ask, where has the net effect been good?
Posted By Anonymous Steve, Middleton, MA : 9:11 PM ET
I support the president 100%. For those who don't have a clear perspective about our current situation in Iraq I encourage all of you to read the following book: "Inside the Assylum" by Jed Babben, former Deputy Undersecretary of Defense.

This book provides honest, detailed information about the mass corruption within the UN and countries (France, being one) involved in the oil for food scandal.
Posted By Anonymous Margot Parot, Slidell, Texas : 9:12 PM ET
Nope. None. Nada.

His abysmal failure in trying to equate the "911" tragedy with the Iraqi war is consuming him, the U.S., our soldiers, the Iraqi civilians and last but not least, our own resources.

I read the "initiatives" being put forth tonight in his speech and as far as I can see, it is all a diversion.

While the health care crises is of major importance, the solutions are the same solutions (in a different hat) he tried to push through with the partial privatization of Social Security.

If he truly wants to be remembered as not being the "that guy in the white house who should have never been elected", perhaps why not start changing the program for all the federal employees first and see how that goes?

Considering he's a federal employee, he should try to see how his program would work in his situation.

I'm just counting down waiting until he's out of office to really start feeling the pain of his outrageous tax cuts and whatever else sunsets after he leaves.

Oh, I'm sorry. Were you talking about Iraq?
Posted By Anonymous Lydia Negron, Washingtonville, NY : 9:32 PM ET
There are other things which have affected the view of the president and the congress:
-The CIA cooked the books about WMD, destroying forever the idea that it was non-partisan.
-The President went out of his way to connect Saddam Hussein to September 11, then after the war was started, said that there was no connection and that he had never said there was. We were directly lied to.
-The Congress handed its war-making powers to the president, in order to take political cover...exposing themselves as moral cowards. If you don't need a Declaration of War to invade a country, overthrow its government, and see that its head of state is executed, when do you need one?
-Our foreign policy's only quality is arrogance and armed might. Now we have 3000+ dead, billions of dollars spent, and Iraq destroyed and in chaos.
-The entire Muslim world hates us even more than they did.
-Oh, and we have systematically ignored and insulted all our allies to the point where they have had it with us as well. Nice job, George...

Whatever the president says tonight in the State of the Union Address, it will be for reasons of damage control and can be immediately dismissed by every thinking American.

This is the administration that wants to concentrate more power in the hands of the president, wants to tap your phone, wants to look at your phone records, and within two years will draft your children to fight and die so that Halliburton and other defense contractors can show a good quarterly statement.
Posted By Anonymous Bill, Chelmsford, MA : 9:34 PM ET
George Bush is a liar, a thief and the very definition of "miserable failure". He has nothing to say to America that doesn't begin with an apology. That, of course, won't happen.

Lame duck? That's a polite word for what's lame about George Bush.
Posted By Anonymous C. A. Hall, Newburyport, Massachusetts : 9:41 PM ET
ECONOMY: best ever in the history of the United States

Partial Birth Abortion Ban: GREAT. Abortion doctors will tell patients that any abortion from the second trimester and beyond brings great risk to the life of the woman having the procedure.

SECURITY: Steadfast

Condi Rice: AMAZING
Posted By Anonymous Isabella, Denton, Texas : 9:43 PM ET
We are witnessing the sinking of a presidency. The country is reaping consequences of electing a man who was unprepared to hold the office. The right wing policy wonks have had their day, we are suffering the result and paying an enormous price for stupid decisions.Another 21,000 troops. Add that to the list.
Posted By Anonymous RM, Kamuela, Hawaii : 9:43 PM ET
I am watching the president give his speech and the reaction of both parties. It is almost like the democrats want us to lose the war! I am a democrat but I am very upset at the reaction to the presidents speech. I think we have opened a can of worms. I think we have to finish the job or these terrorist will bring the fight here on our soil. I think the democrats and some tv organizations need to stop looking at presidental elections and think about what is best for this country, if they don't I will not be voting for a democrat in 08.
Posted By Anonymous James Melton , Frankfort Ky. : 10:01 PM ET
This will be President Bush's legacy: that he invaded a country using manufactured evidence. That in eight years he managed to double the debt collected by all the Presidents that had come before him. That he's been able to facture and divide NATO to the point that it is irrelavent.

The only question remaining is whether he'll beat out Hoover for the spot as the worst President this country has ever had.
Posted By Anonymous Donald Roy Airey, Bolton, MA : 10:05 PM ET
To Answer your question NO. He has ruined everything at home and abroad. He has lost ALL credibilty.And things at home are worse BECAUSE of Iraq, economy, schools, healthcare, VETS on the street increased, Crime, I could go on and on. He has neglected the Homefront...and there is so much suffering in Iraq that we can't begin to measure the Bloody mess....good post Tom. Excellent.
Posted By Anonymous allie,cleveland, ohio : 4:11 AM ET
Any war justified on the bais of distortions, half truths and outright lies is eventually bound to lose the support of the American people - as has the war in Iraq. It was never a noble war to begin with, because it had nothing to do with the so-called "war on terror." For Bush, the chickens have come home to rost. His will go down in history as a failed presidency. He deserves nothing lest.
Posted By Anonymous Dan Bessie, (an American living in Brantome, France) : 6:42 AM ET
Bush still uses the same drivel, the same stupid smirks, the same idiotic remarks that he has used the past six years. Obviously, he is doing either of two things: (1) he knows nothing better and marches out the same manure as always; or (2) he really thinks Americans are stupid enough to listen to his lies and rhetoric. It's long past time for a change -- and we need to start with Bush and Cheney and get out of Iraq, dry up Bush's oil stock plans, and bring home the troops. Support for the troops is high priority. Support for Bush is on the way out of town -- and should be. The two are not the same.
Posted By Anonymous Charles, Pikeville, KY : 7:16 AM ET
No. He has squandered all of his strength trying to be a hero. Now he is begging for help. He is the ruination of the Republican Party and he will be despised most by his most staunch supporters. At the beginning of his presidency I said that the only thing worse than his achieving his aims, would be if he didn't achieve them.
Posted By Anonymous Gregory Kruse, Morrison, IL : 7:36 AM ET
Unfortunately, most of you are very misled. Party polarization has corrupted most people and led them to incorrect assumptions. Lets clear a few things up. First off, the unemployment rate has drastically been diminished. In fact, the unemployment rate is far lower then it has been in the previous century. Second, the economy is rebounding faster then ever before. America's foreign debt has in fact decreased by over 50% since George Bush became president. Contrary to popular belief (mostly spread by Democrats), even with the money spent on the war, our national debt is dropping. Unfortunately for the president, the democrats have given him a bad rap that is entirely uncalled for. I'll admit it is very tragic that over 3000 US troops have died in the 6 years we've been at war, but lets put things into perspective here. In World War II, each side lost roughly 1000 troops per day for the entire war. When you compare 1000 per day to 3000 over 6 years, you can see that it is not as significant as some are making it out to be. The ironic thing here is that most people writing these posts are adults who hold high paying jobs and have a high level of education. I am writing as a high school student with my only political experience coming from a college level American Government class. I hope you all consider this and don't so easily succomb to the slander the Democratic party is so ready to dish out.
Posted By Anonymous Josh Clark, Howard High School, Maryland : 10:06 AM ET
Next year at the same time and place he will try to find another excuse to explain his lack of leadership and the morally corrupt vision he has pursued there will no progress at all.
Global warming, poverty, health care, the budget deficit on every major issue Bush has been a failure. I doubt "god"is on his side.
Posted By Anonymous J Smith Farmington MI : 10:07 AM ET
Tom/AC360:
Traction on any other legislation? Probably not. Most likely not. Don't expect it.

But first, I need to say...I was applauded that Gulf Coast and New Orleans crisis was not mentioned in his State of the Union speech.

As a journalist/advocate covering thousands of volunteers helping rebuild the homes of Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas (Hurricane Katrina and Rita), the invalidation of those individuals and the hard working survivors shows where his priority lies. It is not with the poor, the elderly, the children, or the medical welfare of American.

The social justice issues "embedded" in his speech are just a political ploy needed to fit into a State of the Union speech for its legacy.

Okay, back to the question. If calling the Democratic Party, the Democrats, in his first breath of the speech is any inclination of the bipartisan atmosphere in Washington; the "duck" has laid an egg.

President Bush's agenda is on the war in Iraq. His legacy requires it and he demands it.

As Joe Johns said in his segment last night, from the stability of social security to immigration reform, the president has not followed through domestically during his presidency.

Yes, President has "swallowed the war" and for the next two years, it will be the only word he will siren to the American people.
Posted By Anonymous Sharon D., Indianapolis, IN : 10:12 AM ET
Has anyone considered that so many of the the problems President Bush has encountered were started well before his presidency (Bill Clinton ring a bell?). President Bush is certainly not all for the rich, I've enjoyed my tax cuts and I'm not rich (unfortunately all of my federal tax savings get sucked up by the great State of Ohio). Agreed, there needs to be a better plan for Iraq and it needs to be over. Not one "blogger" or Democrat has given a constructive suggestion -- "Stay" or "leave" is not an answer.
Posted By Anonymous Donna, Cleveland, OH : 3:00 PM ET
The disloyalty in this country is astounding, heartbreaking, almost embarrasing... Everytime a politician turns against Bush vocally, the weaker this counrtry gets... If Bush only had a few months left, maybe, but two years of turning against our president will cripple us... Hasn't anyone ever heard of a "united front"?
Posted By Anonymous Sherry Sarasota, Fl : 3:12 PM ET
I thought I heard a mumbled quacking (for lame duck) last night after Mr. Bush's speech. I don't know if he really wants to work with the Democrats. I hope he does. There is much to do with immigration, taxes, the budget, global warming, and health care. Heidi Collins interviewed David Gergen this morning and I agree with what he says. These speeches were too close together and 20,000 troops are too little too late. I think he is really going to struggle to finish this conflict and he will forever be judged on it. AC had a great group of people on the show last night. I have been reading Andrew Sullivan's blog lately and he didn't disappoint last night! Hope you guys all have a great week and safe travel for AC and crew!
Posted By Anonymous Kathy Chicago,Il : 3:38 PM ET
For those of us who watched the Twin Towers Fall and saw the after effects of the other plane crashes. We should probably be grateful Pres. Bush took this fight to Afganistan and Irag. We really could not have fought a terriots war on American soil. Its easy to forget since ground zero, the Pentagon has been cleaned up. The field has over grown. Its almost like the critics of the President are saying what a few thousand lives. If you watched the State of the Union address you shuld be able to clearly see why we can't get anything done. Complete lack of respect for the President. The Democrats sat right there and very clearly showed a lack of interest in working to solve any problems. They are going to drag their feet and for the next 2 years. Just wait and see.
Posted By Anonymous Robbie Cross, Cordele Ga : 3:44 PM ET
There is NO WAY that this current president can gain anything positive from all the lies and deception that he has placed upon the American public as well as the Iraqi people. He has no credibility because one has to ask is he lying now or did he lie then? And why didn't the media including CNN play a bigger role in asking WHY Bush invaded Iraq in the first place. It would have been nice if you guys were as active back in 2003 in asking the hard questions as you were with your fantastic Katrina coverage.
Posted By Anonymous Michele, Reston, VA : 3:49 PM ET
Initially I supported President Bush sending our young men and women to war. No longer. We all know the reasons it is wrong. I have to wonder, if the President's daughers were in "harm's way" with the armed forces, that he would make the same decisions. I seriously doubt it. One more thought: Can't anyone remember Viet Nam?
Thank you for allowing me to express my opinions. TJL, Naples, Florida
Posted By Anonymous Tina Leonard, Naples, FL : 3:51 PM ET
George Bush and his cronies are certainly receiving some unknown benefit from this Iraq debacle. It is clear that he does not care about his legacy, this country, or the countless numbers of people both American and Iraqi who have lost their lives because of his actions.
Posted By Anonymous Michael Oby Atlanta, Ga : 3:54 PM ET
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