Jewish World Review June 7, 2004 / 18 Sivan, 5764

Zev Chafets

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Turns out Bush's plan for Iraq was more than just talk | In a biblical allusion President Bush might appreciate, his administration has recently experienced seven lean weeks. The gross pictures from Abu Ghraib, threatened Arab uprisings in Fallujah and Najaf and the brutal spike in U.S. casualties combined to make Iraq seem like a hopeless venture. Meanwhile, the steep rise in domestic oil prices had the President's political opponents reflecting nostalgically on the incumbency-busting gas lines of the '70s.

During these weeks, Bush's poll numbers grew lean, too. As they did, the President went about his business with a nonchalance that reminded his detractors of Alfred E. Neuman and disconcerted even his staunch supporters. But Bush is a man of faith. He believed that things would turn around, and they have.

On Friday, the Labor Department announced that 248,000 jobs were added to the economy in May. This is a stunning statistic. Altogether, more than 1 million people have found work since the start of the year, and it's not inconceivable that another million will have jobs by the November election. This trend is especially pronounced in several of the industrial swing states.

These are good tidings for Bush and very bad news for the Democrats. Unemployment was supposed to be their big domestic issue. Until recently, they were comparing Bush with Herbert Hoover. Now his economic numbers look more like Bill Clinton's. As long as they stay that way, the price of gas won't hurt him much.

Iraq is looking up, too. In April, the U.S. lost 136 men and women there. In May, the number declined by almost half. There will be more casualties, but it's now clear that the military has a lid on the violence.

This week in Colorado, Bush delivered one of the best speeches of his presidency. After a long period of inarticulate groping, he finally put Iraq into its proper context as a theater of the worldwide jihad.

This way of looking at things won't convince the-ankle-bone's-not-connected-to-the-foot-bone sophisticates, but it will make sense to a great many swing voters, because it is so obviously true.

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Not only that, it suddenly looks as if Bush knows what he's doing. He has put together a respectable Iraqi government - with the backing of Shiite leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani no less - and is preparing to turn over sovereignty. The Iraqis themselves are asking for a continued American military presence. Not only that, they are taking Bush's case to the UN for him.

These developments came at the perfect moment for the President. Memorial Day is a political force-multiplier for a wartime leader with good news.

Bush's current trip to Europe is equally well-timed. The 60th anniversary of D-Day gives Bush, as celebrator-in-chief, a priceless opportunity to (silently) chide Germany and France for their lack of gratitude.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi mischievously underscored Old Europe's lapse of memory and manners with his own effusive thank you to the American liberators of his country.

D-Day also gives Bush an opportunity to compare his war against Islamic fascism with World War II. More importantly, Secretary of State Powell is now saying it, too.

Powell has been sulking in his tent since the CIA misled him into telling the UN that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Now that the world knows that it was outgoing CIA chief George (Slam Dunk) Tenet who was at fault, Powell is once more a willing - and prestigious - Republican warrior.

Even the Pope has come through for Bush. The pontiff was supposedly set to berate Bush over American crimes and misdemeanors. Instead, at their Friday meeting he mumbled a few platitudes and gracefully accepted a medal from the President. The Vatican doesn't hand out papal photo-ops to losers.

Of course, the Pope knows that only G-d's grace lasts forever. Bush knows this, too. After seven leans weeks, the President is wallowing in a fat one. The thing is, there are still 21 more weeks until Election Day.

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JWR contributor Zev Chafets is a columnist for The New York Daily News. Comment by clicking here.

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