Jim Rutenberg's Tuesday front-page story "In Election Push, Bush Faults Talk Of Iraq Pullout - Criticizes the Democrats," looks at Bush's latest statements through a purely political prism.
"President Bush seized on Monday on Democratic calls for withdrawal from Iraq to make an election-year case that his political rivals did not properly understand the threats to the nation and would create a more dangerous world.
"It was the most direct attack on Democrats that Mr. Bush has made from a White House lectern this election year, and it effectively signaled the beginning of a more outright political season for him and his aides as they work to help Repubilcans maintain control of Congress."
Rutenberg displays an Adam Nagourney-style sensitivity to Republican rhetoric: "In calling the opposition the 'Democrat Party' Mr. Bush was repeating a truncated, incorrect version of the party's name that some Democrats have called a slight, an assertion the White House dismissed as ridiculous. Either way, it was the president as political strategist whom television viewers got a glimpse of Monday, with Mr. Bush laying out what he believed Republicans should focus on this election year and rehearsing an argument that used Iraq as a foil, by contending that the early withdrawal advocated by some Democrats would embolden terrorists everywhere."
Rutenberg puts Bush on the defensive:
"When Mr. Bush referred to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on Monday in reference to a question about Iraq, a reporter pressed him, "What did Iraq have to do with that?"
"'Nothing,' Mr. Bush responded somewhat testily, adding, 'Nobody has ever suggested in this administration that Saddam Hussein ordered the attack.'
"Leading up to the invasion in March 2003, Vice President Dick Cheney did call attention to the theory, since discredited, that one of the Sept. 11 hijackers might have met in Prague with an Iraqi intelligence officer."