So, How Did the President Do Last Night?
Pretty poorly, in my judgement. You can read my reaction and that a number of other interesting folks in this compilation at Salon.com.
Here's the first few paragraphs of my comment, in case you don't have a Salon sub (get one!). But the compilation as a whole is well worth reading, if you have access.
President Bush's speech, whose purpose was to rally public opinion in favor of his Iraq policy, proposed no change of course and no timeline for concluding U.S. involvement. Indeed, with the exception of bulldozing the Abu Ghraib prison, Bush offered absolutely no new ideas on how to deal with the huge difficulties the U.S. currently confronts in Iraq. Instead, he appeared to be relying on a strategy of looking stern and determined, saying that "the terrorists cannot be allowed to win" and comparing the American vision of "liberty and life" with the terrorists' vision of "tyranny and murder." If that all sounds familiar, it's because Bush has been striking the same poses and saying the same things -- to decreasing effect -- ever since the U.S. invaded Iraq, and, in fact, considerably before it.
This is not likely to be an effective strategy. The public has turned increasingly negative on the war in Iraq and, more broadly, on Bush's conduct of the war on terrorism. Simply asserting that we're doing the right thing and we must continue to do it is not going to turn those negative views around. Instead, since the public believes that the current course in Iraq is not containing, much less resolving, the very serious problems, proposing a change from that course was the only plausible way to turn public opinion in his direction.
That is exactly what Bush failed to do and why we may reasonably expect that public opinion will not turn in his favor. And public opinion now is remarkably negative.