Administration officials are newly optimistic that the administration has turned the corner in making its case for continued U.S. involvement in Iraq.
"People think things are going better," says a senior adviser to President Bush after assessing recent public-opinion polls. "They are still apprehensive, but they are starting to see that the surge [of U.S. troops into Iraq] has worked. There is more optimism that we can succeed."
The official told U.S. News that news coverage on Iraq has begun to reflect progress, and this has helped make the public somewhat more upbeat. This is an important concession from the White House, since the spin from Bush advisers has for many weeks been quite the opposite. Administration officials had argued that the mainstream news media gave short shrift to positive developments in Iraq and focused saturation coverage on the setbacks. Part of that critique was designed to pressure the media to cover the positive side of the war.
Whatever the reason, White House officials detect a clear pattern of upbeat coverage, such as reporting on successful operations against al Qaeda fighters and portraying the battle readiness of Iraqi forces. But the senior Bush adviser admits that Americans will want to see a lot more political progress by the Iraqi government before they are convinced that U.S. involvement over the long term will be worthwhile.
The latest CBS poll finds that 29 percent of Americans now believe the surge is making the situation better in Iraq, up from 19 percent a month ago. That's hardly a show of overwhelming support, but White House insiders say at least the trend is moving in a more optimistic direction.
—Kenneth T. Walsh