Even in war of words, Bush cannot 'win'

Up until now, President Bush's verbal uh-ohs have been pretty benign. A "subliminable" here, a vow to never stop finding new ways to harm our country there.

Up until now, President Bush's verbal uh-ohs have been pretty benign. A "subliminable" here, a vow to never stop finding new ways to harm our country there.

In fact, he'd become pretty adept at turning them to his advantage through self-effacing humor that made the "elitist left" seem out of touch for thinking a President should be able to talk good.

But Bush outdid even himself last week when he chose the opening day of his party's convention - a day dedicated to reminding Americans how stead- fast he had been in his War on Terror - to show his unflinching resolve in the face of global disapproval, to reiterate his singular determination to win, and to admit that actually "winning" the war might be a tad ambitious.

"I don't think you can win it," Bush said to NBC's Matt Lauer. "But I think you can create conditions so that those who use terror as a tool are less acceptable in parts of the world."

The real tragedy, of course, wasn't the sentiment itself - anyone familiar with reality will tell you the US can't kill or jail everyone who wants to use violence against civilians for political ends. What's sad is that Bush finally decided to get his nuance on during the one week when political chest-thumping is not only accepted, but vital to the re-election effort.

You don't use the first minutes of the pep rally to announce that your quarterback may have mono. So the President was forced to spend the next several days on the overcompensation trail, hurriedly reminding the world that the war is "winnable" and that the US is "winning" it - and would "win" it. Suddenly, it was all "win" all the time. It may not have been subtle, but they don't call it "strategery" for nothing.

  • Douglas Quenqua writes PR Play of the Week. He is PRWeek's Washington, DC, bureau chief.
  • Ratings: 1. Clueless 2. Ill-advised 3. On the right track 4. Savvy 5. Ingenious

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