Troop Reaction To The Iraq Escalation

Ken AshfordIraqLeave a Comment

Having announced his "new" strategy on Iraq on national TV Wednesday, the Bush team needed a PR boost to show Americans that real Americans are in support of the Bush plan.

They consulted the standard playbook, and placed President Bush in front of what they assumed would be a favorable rah-rah audience: the American soldiers.

So off Bush went to Fort Benning, Georgia, yesterday to give his plan to a rousing audience of uniformed men and women, who would should "huzzah!" and so on, and give good sound bites to the media.


…his lunchtime talk received a restrained response from soldiers who clapped politely but showed little of the wild enthusiasm that they ordinarily shower on the commander in chief. (New York Times)


…he received only tepid applause at this Army base (The Washington Times)


…it was hardly the boisterous, rock-star reception Bush typically gets at military bases. During his lunchtime speech, the soldiers were attentive but quiet. (The Washington Post)

Normally, at such events, the press is invited to talk to members of Bush’s audience to gauge their reaction.  This was no different, but for some reason:

The White House brought a planeload of reporters along when President Bush flew to Fort Benning to tout his new Iraq strategy to a roomful of American soldiers, some of whom will be deploying to Iraq sooner than expected. It just didn’t want the reporters to talk to those soldiers — or any others, for that matter.

Scott Stanzel, the deputy White House press secretary, initially told reporters that they’d be able to speak to some of the soldiers who had listened to the president’s speech in a large dining hall in Fort Benning, a sprawling facility in Georgia. That would have been the first opportunity for many reporters to talk to those most directly affected by the Bush administration’s Iraq troop escalation: the soldiers who will be sent to Iraq sooner, and kept there longer.

When the president finished his prepared remarks, however, reporters were shooed out of the dining hall by White House aides and public-affairs personnel from the military base, who said that soldiers were now off-limits to the media.

Later on, just as the press was getting on the plane back to Washington, the press liason at Fort Benning "made available" to the press a hand-picked group of soldiers, who (presumably) would spin the Bush plan favorably.  But the press was out of there — not interested in the pre-selected spin.

This is NOT a popular escalation, expecially with those who are going to be most affected by it.

RELATED:  This New York Times breakdown of the Bush speech is simply amazing in both analysis and format.

UPDATE:  The actual troops in Iraq have talked to the media, and they’re not crazy about Bush’s plan.  By the way, Rassmussen Reports does a daily tracking of Bush approval/disapproval.  Bush gave his speech on January 10 — look what happened (I’ll give previous days’ data just to show it wasn’t a fluke):

Bush Job Approval
Dec 2005 – Current
Approve Disapprove
Jan 12       35       61
Jan 11          39       58
Jan 10       44       54
Jan 9       42       55
Jan 8       40       57
Jan 7       40       57
Jan 6       42       55
Jan 5       45       54
Jan 4       44       55
Jan 3       43       56

35%, by the way, is the lowest recorded for Bush with Russmussen.