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December 19, 2005

Dana Milbank Is Bored...

In his latest "Washington Sketch," he finds no news in Bush's latest Iraq speech. (And why can I never find Dana Milbank's "Washington Sketch" on the washingtonpost.com home page?)

Repetitious, Yes, but They Didn't Cut and Run: Lawmakers, diplomats and assorted military types settled into their seats... to watch President Bush's fourth speech on Iraq in a fortnight.... In the end, everybody agreed: They had seen this movie before.For the 22nd time in a speech as president, Bush said we would not "cut and run" in Iraq. For the 28th time, he said Iraq was "the central front" in the war on terrorism. And, for the 100th time, Bush promised that "we will prevail" against the terrorists.

The lack of new material in Bush's speech complicated the second act in yesterday's double feature. Jack Murtha (Pa.), the Democratic congressman who has been rebutting each of the four Iraq speeches, had little to work with. "He keeps saying the same thing over and over," Murtha protested during his regular televised rebuttal.... Murtha opted to rebut the location of Bush's speech. "Let me take a few minutes to remark about the irony of President Bush speaking today in the Ronald Reagan Building," he said. Given "the sorry state of our Army, the erosion of the U.S. credibility in the world, and the deficits far as the eye can see, you've got to believe President Reagan is turning over in his grave."...

After four engagements, the Bush-Murtha act was getting stale. When Murtha, a hawkish retired Marine, first called for a pullout from Iraq last month, it was standing-room only. Yesterday, only six reporters showed up to see Murtha, who arrived early and stood, silently, at the lectern. Behind him in the House television gallery, titles on a bookshelf were visible: "A History of the American People," "Constitutional Law," and, appropriately for the dyspeptic Murtha, "Diseases of the Stomach."

By contrast, Bush's setting left nothing to chance: 24 flags behind him, four poinsettias in front, and top Cabinet members and supportive lawmakers planted in the audience. Yet... the president's delivery was muted.... His four Iraq speeches... were full of numbing repetition. Washingtonpost.com's Adrian Holovaty did a computer analysis of the four Iraq speeches and found dozens of phrases repeated in all four. Bush invoked "democracy" 83 times, "freedom" 68 times and "security" 75 times....

Even the White House was not pretending to cover new ground..... John Roberts asked White House spokesman Scott McClellan about Bush's statement that "I'm responsible for the decision to go into Iraq."

"I don't think that's new," the press secretary cautioned. Not much was...

Posted by DeLong at December 19, 2005 12:01 PM