Kerry Spot [ jim geraghty reporting ]
DOWN THE LINE....PREDICTABLE RESPONSES TO THE ARMY WAR COLLEGE SPEECH.... [05/25 08:52 AM]
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Biden flacks for the Dem's man.
It will be a few days before we know for sure if President Bush's speech at the Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, reassured a public growing anxious and tired of Iraq. But judging by the instant reaction from talking heads Monday night, the reaction will probably be predictably split down party lines.
Around 10 P.M., John Kerry released a statement dismissing the Bush's speech as old news: "The President laid out general principles tonight, most of which we've heard before. What's most important now is to turn these words into action by offering presidential leadership to the nation and to the world. That's going to require the President to genuinely reach out to our allies so the United States doesn't have to continue to go it alone and to create the stability necessary to allow the people of Iraq to move forward. That's what our troops deserve, and that's what our country and the world need at this moment."
Kerry's surrogates were not as diplomatic. Bush was shaking his first hand after the speech when Sen. Joe Biden (D., Del.), ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, shook his head and dismissed the speech as a waste of time on Hardball.
Declaring himself "extremely disappointed," Biden charged that Bush "didn't lay out any strategy, didn't level with the Iraqi people." He dismissed the president's assignment to senior military officers to assessing every unit in Iraq's security forces and then oversee the training of a force of 260,000 Iraqi soldiers, police, and other security personnel.
"Five Iraqi army battalions are in the field now, with another eight battalions to join them by July the first," the president said. "The eventual goal is an Iraqi army of 35,000 soldiers in 27 battalions, fully prepared to defend their country."
"It will take three years to train that force," Biden said.
When host Chris Matthews asked Biden what he would do if he were advising the president, he returned to an idea he's been touting for weeks all over the airwaves: A big European summit where the president could beg Jacques Chirac, Gerhard Schroeder, and Vladimir Putin to send troops to Iraq. "He must get on a plane. Call a summit," Biden ordered.
"I feel badly saying this," he said. "For a long time, I've tried not to be critical." (Biden apparently forgot his declaration that the U.S. looked like "a high-tech bully" two weeks into the bombing campaign against the Taliban.)
Over on CNN, former Secretary of State Madeline Albright was singing the same tune.
"There's still no guarantee the Iraqi people will accept whoever we transfer sovereignty to," Albright said. 'I don't think he said anything particularly new. There is no timeline."
She succinctly pointed out that Bush's pledges of progress may not be met. "Just because a president says something is so doesn't mean it is based in reality." (No comment.)
Back on MSNBC, the rebuttal to Biden's rebuttal was left to Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican and chair of the House Armed Services Committee, who immediately dismissed the earlier guest as "Joe 'The world is going to hell in a hen basket' Biden."
"The president did what he had to do," Hunter said. "He showed he has a plan. The American people are going to hang tough."
Jumping around channels, Peter King (R., N.Y.), said that the speech would get the Republicans on Capitol Hill who had been grousing back on the bandwagon.
"He's really given Republicans a lot to work with," King said. "Any Republican who wasn't won over either wasn't listening or didn't want to listen."
Sen. Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, was similarly effusive. "People forget it took us 12 years to get from the Declaration of Independence to the Bill of Rights. The plan is in place and it should work."
The one Democrat who seemed to anything positive to say about Bush's speech was Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut.
"Obviously, there are no guarantees, but he did what he had to do," Lieberman said. "He's shoring up American support and reminding us why we must win this battle against the terrorists and the Baathists. Let's not be a chorus of doubters to undermine the support of the American people. This is the test. If we don't win in Iraq, we're going to feel it a lot closer to home."
The real Democratic response is yet to come, however: Expect Senator Kerry to expound on "the need for alliances" in an eleven-day series of national-security speeches beginning Thursday in Seattle.