COMMENTS: Four Years and Counting

President George Bush returned to the cameras he faced exactly four years ago when he launched the invasion of Iraq to acknowledge that the war is still going on. He urged patience, courage and resolve: "We will accept no outcome but victory." The fourth anniversary of the war was the Story of the Day as CBS and NBC both led with coverage of Bush's TV address. ABC chose the internal situation in Iraq instead, unveiling its nationwide survey Where Things Stand.

All three networks assigned their White House correspondents to the President's speech. NBC's David Gregory called Bush's words "measured--a far cry from the certainty with which he launched the war." He noted that the White House now uses "determined" to describe the President's demeanor, rather than "optimistic." White House aides told CBS' Jim Axelrod that "he remains absolutely dug in." Axelrod consulted the Washington Post's Bob Woodward for his reaction: sometimes the White House "treats reality almost as if it is wrong." Woodward called the Commander-in-Chief convinced that he is right. "As we have found before, Presidents work their will. And his will is to persist."

ABC's Martha Raddatz (subscription required) reminded us how hard it is to predict a war's future. She rehashed the Pentagon's original invasion plan: by now it envisaged a total US deployment in Iraq of 5,000 troops. The current level is 170,000.

NBC and ABC closed their newscasts with a broad view of the war. ABC's Bill Blakemore narrated a montage of vignettes to display the variety of personalities represented in the US military dead with the mournful refrain: "It is hard to get to know them all." NBC aired an unnarrated videotape compilation of the sights and sounds of the past four years, including a memento of its own fallen correspondent David Bloom.

CBS' closer was personal instead. Cynthia Bowers visited the lonely wife of an army reserve major, raising a pair of toddlers in an impersonal Illinois subdivision, while her husband is serving at Camp Anaconda in Iraq. The camp is nicknamed Mortaritaville because of its daily bombardment.


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