If he gets more explicit, or allows the flag-draped coffins of fallen heroes to be photographed coming home, it will just remind people that the administration said this would be easy, and it's teeth-grindingly hard. And that the administration vowed to get Osama and Saddam and W.M.D., and hasn't. And that the Bush team that hyped the presence of Al Qaeda in Iraq has now created an Al Qaeda presence in Iraq. And that there was no decent plan for the occupation or for financing one, no plan for rotating or supporting troops stretched too thin to guard ammunition caches or police a fractious society, and no plan for getting out.
As the White House points out, Mr. Bush cannot fairly pick and choose which memorial services to go to, or which deaths to speak of.
"If a helicopter were hit an hour later, after he came out and spoke, should he come out again?" Dan Bartlett, the White House communications director, told The Times's Elisabeth Bumiller, explaining Mr. Bush's silence after the Chinook crash. The public, he added, "wants the commander in chief to have proper perspective, and keep his eye on the big picture and the ball."
The ball for fall is fund-raising. President Bush has been going full throttle since summer, spending several days a week flying around the country, hitting up rich Republicans for $2,000 checks. He has raised $90 million so far out of the $175 million he plans to spend on a primary campaign in which he has no opponent.
At fund-raisers, Mr. Bush prefers to talk about the uptick in the economy, not the downtick in Iraq. On Monday, arriving for a fund-raiser in Birmingham, he was upbeat, not somber. As Mike Allen of The Washington Post reported in his pool report, "The president, who gave his usual salute as he stepped off Marine One, appeared to start the day in a fabulous mood. . . . An Alabama reporter who was under the wing shouted, `How long will U.S. troops be in Iraq?' The president gave him an unappreciative look."
Raising $1.8 million at lunch, he stuck to the line that "we are aggressively striking the terrorists in Iraq, defeating them there so we will not have to face them in our own country." He didn't want to depress the donors by mentioning the big news story, the loss of 15 American soldiers, or sour the mood by conceding the obvious, that the swelling horde of terrorists fighting us there will not prevent terrorists from coming after us here. Maybe we should all be like President Bush and not read the papers so we don't get worn down either.
Perhaps the solution to Mr. Bush's quandary is to coordinate his schedule so he can go to cities where he can attend both fund-raisers and funerals.
The law of averages suggests it shouldn't be hard.
Glad to know he's got his priorities sorted out.