The president has just taken the stage at Fort Bragg. I'll follow along and post throughout. Stay tuned.
- First mention of 9/11, less than one minute in. Second, less than one minute later.
- Calls Iraq "the newest front" in the war against terror. -- 8:04 p.m.
- Delivers as released this paragraph, "The work in Iraq is difficult and dangerous. Like most Americans, I see the images of violence and bloodshed. Every picture is horrifying - and the suffering is real. Amid all this violence, I know Americans ask the question: Is the sacrifice worth it? It is worth it, and it is vital to the future security of our country. And tonight I will explain the reasons why." Let's hear them. -- 8:06 p.m.
- Quoting Osama bin Laden? I winced at that; doesn't seem like a particularly helpful thing to do. -- 8:08 p.m.
- Notes how the insurgency in Iraq has failed: transfer of sovereignty, provisional government, elections. "The terrorists can kill the innocent - but they cannot stop the advance of freedom. The only way our enemies can succeed is if we forget the lessons of September 11 ... if we abandon the Iraqi people to men like Zarqawi ... and if we yield the future of the Middle East to men like Bin Laden. For the sake of our national security, this will not happen on my watch." Why are we continuing to link 9/11 and what's going on in Iraq right now? Does this make sense to anyone else? -- 8:11 p.m.
- "Our progress has been uneven, but progress is being made." That's the first (even tangential) moment of admitting so much as 'uneven' in the way progress has been going. -- 8:12 p.m.
- "We have a clear path forward ... continue to hunt down the terrorists and insurgents ... preven Iraq from being turned into what Afghanistan was under the Taliban ... help Iraqis build a functioning state." Says military will hunt terrorists, train Iraqi security forces: "as the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down. We've made progress, but we have alot more work to do." -- 8:15 p.m.
- Real specifics on numbers when it comes to the readiness levels of Iraqi troops: "some," "many," "others". -- 8:16 p.m.
- Makes the (good) point that setting an "artificial timetable" isn't a very good idea. Makes clear that American troops will not be in Iraq forever, he says he looks forward to the day when Iraqis can defend themselves. The "no permanent presence" point is an excellent one, and it was necessary to make this clear. -- 8:20 p.m.
- Credits action in Iraq with bringing about the end of Libya's WMD programs, and allowing elections in the Palestinian Authority, Saudi, and Egypt. Tough to make that case, I think. -- 8:24 p.m.
- "We have more work to do, and there will be tough moments that test America's resolve. We are fighting against men with blind hatred - and armed with lethal weapons - who are capable of any atrocity. They wear no uniform; they respect no laws of warfare or morality. They take innocent lives to create chaos for the cameras. They are trying to shake our will in Iraq - just as they tried to shake our will on September 11, 2001. They will fail. The terrorists do not understand America. The American people do not falter under threat - and we will not allow our future to be determined by car bombers and assassins." -- 8:25 p.m.
- "America and our friends are in a conflict that demands much of us. It demands the courage of our fighting men and women … it demands the steadfastness of our allies … and it demands the perseverance of our citizens. We accept these burdens - because we know what is at stake. We fight today, because Iraq now carries the hope of freedom in a vital region of the world - and the rise of democracy will be the ultimate triumph over radicalism and terror. And we fight today because terrorists want to attack our country and kill our citizens - and Iraq is where they are making their stand. So we will fight them there … we will fight them across the world - and we will stay in the fight until the fight is won." -- 8:27 p.m.
- Asks Americans to thank those to who for us to defend freedom "by flying a flag, sending letters to troops in the field, or helping the military family down the street." He might as well have added "and go shopping." Argh. We can't do any more than fly the flag or send a letter? C'mon. -- 8:28 p.m.
- Ends with "After September 11, 2001, I told the American people that the road ahead would be difficult - and that we would prevail. Well, it has been difficult. And we are prevailing. Our enemies are brutal - but they are no match for the United States of America - and they are no match for the men and women of the United States military. May God bless you all."
Well. Nothing much new, not much different, not much straight talk. In all, a disappointment. The continued linkages between 9/11 and Iraq are really pretty brazen, and we heard nothing concrete about fighting the insurgency. Of course we all support the troops (I can't say that nearly enough, I could not have more respect for those out there carrying out the orders) - I'd also support some real honesty from this president. -- 8:34 p.m.
- The insta-spin, at least on CNN, is about the high number of references to 9/11. Dana Bash says insiders are saying the language is justifiable "because even Osama bin Laden says" this is the same war. The president is basing his rhetoric around quotes from Osama bin Laden? Wow. -- 8:36 p.m.
- CNN on with Joe Biden, who says "There has been progress." Gives some clearer numbers on trainees, but says he didn't hear much about changes in policy tonight. He gives Bush credit for "leveling" (wow, he must have heard something I didn't hear), and says he hopes the American people will give Bush "more time." Adds that the American people are smart enough to see through the 9/11 references, then says he wishes Bush had "leveled more." Suggests that Bush should ask NATO to come in and secure the borders. -- 8:51 p.m.
- McCain and Kerry to be on with Larry King. I know, I know, Larry King - but McCain and Kerry ought to be interesting. -- 8:55 p.m.
- Response from Harry Reid here. -- 8:58 p.m.
- haha well it's not Larry King. It's Bob Costas, possibly the only anchorperson worse. Asks Kerry to start if Bush gave the speech he should have given. Kerry says Bush had an opportunity tonight, but didn't take it. Says he heard the third rationale for war tonight: weapons of mass destruction, spreading democracy, and now fighting terrorism. Costas asks "what would President Kerry do?" and thankfully Kerry bats that down as dumb, says that he really disagrees with the requirement that all training of Iraqis be in-country (as he did today in the Times), because training could be accomplished quicker and more effectively by utilizing our allies. Suggests maybe Bush will continue to lay out new policies in the next several weeks - wow he's playing nice tonight. Notes that many Democrats "and I plead guilty" didn't ask enough questions before the war in Iraq, but then turns it to 9/11 himself, notes that everyone was united after the attacks, that questions only were raised when it came to Iraq. -- 9:05 p.m.
- Kerry continues, saying Americans "have a right to expect a higher level of accomplishment, and a higher level of safety and security." -- 9:06 p.m.
- Makes the point I made earlier about flying the flag to honor the troops, says the Administration is not doing "all that's necessary to honor the troops," that Americans "want to demand more." "Yes there is progress, but the measure is to do the best that we can do, and I think alot of people think we're failing to do that." -- 9:08 p.m.
- Kerry's finished up a fairly straightforward, if somewhat repetitive, interview with Costas - McCain's up next. Kerry and Biden seemed to be tripping over themselves to see who could be more critical-but-supportive, which I found of interest. -- 9:11 p.m.
- Since the president suggested it, I'll pass along the URL he spoke of, where you can send an email to troops and at least do something to support them. It's at AmericaSupportsYou.mil. I just wish he'd offered Americans something more than a website. - 9:14 p.m.
- McCain now: Costas quotes Hagel's recent comments about the White House being disconnected from reality and that we're "losing." McCain says mistakes have been made, but that there are signs of progress in military training, constitution-framing. "I think there there is progress, we cannot afford to fail ... the benefits of success throughout the region are already being felt." He says that he's satisfied with Bush's message and its delivery tonight. McCain's left eye looks funny, half-closed and watery (sorry, minor aside, it's getting late). Notes the huge change in Iraq from minority Sunni rule to Shia majority control and how difficult that will be. Clearly just about everyone (at least those on t.v.) is trying to be very positive about this speech, but I didn't get the same warm fuzzy feelings about it that Biden, Kerry, and McCain seemed to. -- 9:26 p.m.
- Senator Bayh, on CNN now, says Bush did a good job of saying things that all Americans agree on, but did not "lay out a clear plan." He says "we need accountability for progress, and I think he could have done a better job of that tonight." Finally, something against the grain tonight. -- 9:33 p.m.
- Senator John Warner says progress is being made, but adds some excellent points, that a bipartisan message should be sent that we support the troops and success in Iraq, and that we should stop talking about whether conservatives are more patriotic than liberals and focus on reality. Always good to hear things like that, for sure. -- 9:36 p.m.
- Alright, I think I've about exhausted this business for the evening. As I've said, bottom line was nothing new out of this. Disappointing.
Full text of the speech is available here.
[Update: Alan at The Yellow Line has some excellent commentary on the speech, discussing specifically what the president did not do tonight. -- 11:05 p.m.]