"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public." Theodore Roosevelt
The White House is embarking on a new effort to try to leaven the bleak accounts emerging from Iraq. Administration officials tell Time that Steve Schmidt, counselor to Vice President Cheney and one of the White House's most aggressive strategists, will leave for Baghdad early this week to spend up to a month assessing media relations in the war zone. Back home, Cheney and President Bush will give major speeches this week on Iraq's Oct. 15 constitutional referendum. Administration officials say the addresses aim to define the terrorist insurgency as an enemy with a clear strategy, and to portray dire consequences if the U.S. were to withdraw. Vice President Cheney flies to Camp Lejeune, N.C., for a Monday rally with Marines, while President Bush motorcades to the Ronald Reagan Building on Thursday.
One of Schmidt's missions, administration officials say, is to determine whether the White House can take any logistical steps to help American reporters and other journalists to gather news at a time when it is often too dangerous for them to leave their compounds. The officials say Schmidt's trip is at the request of the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalizad, but is supported at the highest levels of the White House. "We want to see if there's a disconnect between what people in the United States are seeing on their televisions and in their newspapers, and the reality on the ground," a senior administration official said.