In the spring of 2007, George Bush was a president on the ropes. The war in Iraq was going badly, Congress considered him powerless, and the public had pretty much tossed in the towel on his ability to accomplish anything. Yet he had decided to double his bet on Iraq by sending in a "surge" of new troops, and, rather than compromising with a Congress that wanted to cut off funds for the war, he insisted on more.
In early May, we summed up the mood of an anxious Washington with a provocative cover story titled "Bush's Last Stand." Our veteran White House correspondent, Ken Walsh, walked readers through the immense challenges faced by the president and the criticisms of those who questioned his judgment. Through it all, Bush projected an almost eerie sense of calm. We pondered that and put a subhead on the cover: "Is He Resolute—or Delusional?"
We didn't intend to answer the question but rather to explore an issue on the minds of many Washington insiders. A lot of wise men were shaking their heads in astonishment at the president's actions. Still, it's not every day we open up even the possibility that the president of the United States is not thinking straight.
In the 15 months since then, a lot of things haven't improved for the president. His approval rating hovers near historic lows. His hopes to push through reforms on immigration, education, and energy appear to be dashed. But the war has seen a remarkable turnaround, in large part because of the hard decisions he made. Historians will sift the Bush legacy for years—as will we—but at this point it's fair to say that the first draft of history will show that he had the fortitude to execute one very tough call, and so far the country's better off for it.
I raise this because, as a rule, journalists aren't very good about looking back at their work. We're genetically programmed to sniff out the next story. But on big issues, I think we owe it to our readers to revisit our reporting and examine our performance from time to time. Or at least tell you how the story turned out. This seemed like one of those times.
I'd like to hear your thoughts on others. Do you think we've missed the boat on some important stories? Were we fair and thorough in our coverage? (Were we fair to the president last spring?) Or are you just curious why we handled a story a certain way? Oh, and it's OK to tell us now and then how brilliant we were.
Drop me a letter at 1050 Thomas Jefferson St. NW, Washington DC 20007, or an E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'll respond to as many of your thoughts and concerns as I can.