Much talk in the news about the President's "surprise" visit to Iraq. The Administration is spinning this as some daring act of heroism on the President's part. I suspect most of America is responding in the manner my mom did. To paraphrase, "Damn right he should be going over there after he's had all of those people risk their lives for him."
My mom was a big supporter of the bombing or Afganistan. As was I, actually. Indeed, as was most of the international community. But like me, and most of the international community, she's never seen the connection to the War on Terror and the War on Iraq. A couple years ago, my mom was being down right jingoistic, but now she's been completely put off by Bush. I guess it just goes to show its not just the good will of the world he has squandered as he has turned attention away from an increasingly active Al quieda and to the hardly imminently threatening Iraq. So, upon hearing that he was visiting the troops, she thought it was literally the least he could do.
Of course, he's also facing some pretty tough questions from the White House Press Corps over this. Mostly because he just pissed them all off by lying to most of them for weeks and hand-picking a select group of reporters who got to tag along. It reminds me of Valentine's Day in elementary school when it was made very clear to me and my class mates that we had to get Valentine's for everyone, lest anyone feel left out. I guess they didn't touch such lessons in sensitivity to other's feelings back when Bush was in grade school. The greater concern is whether those invited were chosen because they were especially friendly with the White House. And, of course, the President does himself no favors when he basically tells the left out and lied to reporters that they should be thanking him.
This is not to say that a level of secrecy wouldn't have been warrented. Regardless of my personal feelings about his job performance, I certainly can acknowledge that a great deal of care is needed when visiting a war zone. And while it certainly has hints of his grandstanding habits, I am sure the troops appreciated it in a way that the crew of the Air Craft Carrier the White House placed just out of sight of San Diego wouldn't.
Still, it all just feels so over the top. Like W. realized he could live out his spy fantasies as he sneaks around "undercover" posing as a couple with Condi Rice. And of course, his paternal instincts kept kicking in as he threatended to turn Air Force One around if the reporters didn't behave. Seems like this all could have been accomplished if the President planned to have Thanksgiving Dinner at a military base in Germany but was really bound for Iraq. Then you can get a full press contingent who just don't know the scope of their visit until they find themselves getting off the plane in Baghdad.
The other thing is, it doesn't seem like it was all that safe. I mean, he did fly one of the two planes outfitted as Air Force 1. Even with a fighter patrol and AF1's impressive defense measures, seems like that would be a pretty noticable target. They actually were spotted by a British Airways pilot. I'm not expert, but you have to think that some Iraqi with a beef against the US might have noticed it, too.
But, they felt it was secure, so I'll go with their judgement. I'm more concerned by their typical stand-offish response. I'd be more impressed with this sort of thing if it wasn't always so overtly orchestrated or if they weren't premptively defensive. It is reminding me of the minor out-cry over Bush's plane hopping on September 11. A lot of people were fairly upset that our President was not providing visible leadership in one of the darkest hours of American history. But the Secret Service were also fairly concerned about safe-guarding the President's safety. The nation hoping made sense, even if the risk was slight. A few people would find issue, but they really weren't being fair. And yet, the White House still felt compelled to lie about it and make up a story about how they knew Air Force One was being targeted and they had to evade attack. It was all fantasy. They had no such information. Now, they didn't have any reason to lie. They had a reasonable explanation and an understanding public, but they still were making up stories. That's really disturbing all on its own.