President Bush gathered top aides at Camp David here on Monday to calibrate the best way forward in Iraq during what the administration described as a critical juncture, following the death last week of the most-wanted terrorist in Iraq and the final formation of a unity government there.And then surprising everyone Bush Makes Surprise Visit to Iraq.
The meeting was as much a media event as it was a high-level strategy session, devised to send a message that this is "an important break point for the Iraqi people and for our mission in Iraq from the standpoint of the American people," in the words of the White House counselor, Dan Bartlett.
President Bush arrived in Baghdad this afternoon for a face-to-face meeting with new Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki -- an effort, the White House said, to get a clear sense of the premier's priorities and how the U.S. government could help his government succeed.Please note that Prime Minister Maliki was only notified after Bush arrived. I would be willing to bet that Maliki was not very pleased. Photo Ops with someone that most of the Iraqis hate won't make his job any easier.
The White House originally had said Bush was scheduled to be at Camp David and to hold a video-conference with Maliki this morning. Instead, without telling the Iraqi government or all but his closest advisers, the president slipped out of Washington last night and made the 11-hour trip to Baghdad International Airport, landing at 4:08 p.m. Baghdad time (8:08 a.m. EDT).
Bush then traveled by helicopter to the heavily fortified Green Zone, where the new prime minister was waiting with one of his aides in the Republican Palace, a 1950s-era building that is now part of the U.S. Embassy compound.
"Good to see you," Maliki said to the president, who was escorted by a retinue of aides, including U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalizad and the senior U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. George W. Casey Jr.
"Thanks for having me," Bush replied, before disappearing with Maliki into one of the offices. Maliki learned of Bush's visit only after his Nighthawk helicopter had landed in the Green Zone following a six-minute ride from the airport, part of the extraordinary security measures associated with the trip.
The Bush administration has no control over the situation in Iraq and the American people are beginning to see that. As we reported below the Zarqawi death gave Bush little if any bump in the polls. In addition this dog and pony show is way to early to have any impact on the November elections.
You can put new lipstick on the pig but it's still a pig.