Bush Announces Major Realignment Of US Armed Forces
President Bush yesterday addressed the 105th national VFW convention in what the New York Times calls this morning "the political combat zone of Ohio." Bush, says the Dayton Daily News, was greeted "with a roar of welcome and approval," and "boasted of his administration's increased funding for veterans' services" and "strongly defended the war in Iraq. 'Our friends and allies must know that when America speaks, we mean what we say. We will stay until the job is completed,' he said." Sen. John Kerry is expected to speak Wednesday before the same audience. The thrust of Bush's remarks, which received widespread coverage in television and print media, was the President's plan for a major realignment of US forces. NBC Nightly News said in its report that at a time "when critics say the Administration has overextended the military with large deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq, the President said today's announcement amounts to better strategy for the Armed Forces and less stress on its troops and their families."
CNN reported the event "was paid for not by the White House or the taxpayers but the president's reelection campaign," and "came at the end of a very intensely political speech by the president." CBS Evening News also noted the political aspects of Bush's remarks, saying that "since the Democrats' convention," the President "has focused almost exclusively on national security, trying to put John Kerry on the defensive for saying that he'd reduce the number of troops in Iraq within six months." According to the New York Times, the speech "came with heavy political overtones," as "part of an effort leading into the Republican National Convention to promote Mr. Bush's record on national security." The AP offers a note of caution for Bush, reporting that the plan "to call tens of thousands of US troops home from Europe and Asia could gain" Bush "election-year applause from military families, but won't ease the strain on soldiers still battling violent factions in Iraq and Afghanistan," a point also made by ABC World News Tonight, which showed Michael O'Hanlon of the, Brookings Institution saying, "This doesn't help morale that much in the short term, because we're not bringing people home from Iraq and Afghanistan. That's where people don't really enjoy being."
Local TV newscasts, which gave the speech widespread coverage, focused much less on the political repercussions of Bush's announcement. Typical of the coverage was WXIX-TV of Cincinnati, which referred to Bush's "major announcement" of "a plan that would eliminate about half of the US European military installations. . . . In a 30 minute speech the President thanked veterans for their service and reminded them of his Administration's contribution to their well-being." WSYX-TV of Columbus showed a clip of the President saying, "We no longer need to station troops in countries where we feared the Soviet Union," while KOAT-TV of Albuquerque, New Mexico, showed him stating, "Our service members will have more time on the home front, and more predictability and fewer moves over a career." Finally, WAWS-TV of Jacksonville, Florida, reports that the military posture proposed by Bush "would provide a more flexible plan. . .needed to fight the war on terror."