It was pretty interesting watching the Democrats and Republicans flub the political opportunities provided by Tuesday’s events. Uday and Qusay are dead, and nobody gets the credit.

The Democrats need to get out in front of events like these. “Of course Uday and Qusay will be found,” they should have said, along with Saddam, the WMDs, etc. “But that’s not the point. The real problem here is <insert broader problem with president’s policies and decisions>.” That way, they can blunt the president’s momentum before it even begins while keeping their issues in the public eye.

But if the Democrats frittered away a chance to stay in the news, the Republicans did worse. Put plainly, the White House should have told Centcom to shut up. They should have scheduled a late-evening presidential address so that Bush himself could declare this new developement, thereby associating himself with positive progress in the war/occupation. (Sure, it would have leaked all over the place in advance, but the images on the evening news and in the morning papers are more important than live cable news.)

By passing all coverage to the military folks, the White House appeared overcautious, even nonchalant. It squandered an opportunity to rhetorically turn the tables on Bush’s Democratic critics and reiterate our broader mission in Iraq — a mission that Americans solidly support.

Had the Bushies handled this correctly, they could have made the president seem tall again, and his uranium-harping detractors seem small. Republican senators and representatives could have added to the momentum, flooding the airwaves with guest appearances and further turning the issue against the Democrats.

Bush’s poll numbers would have spiked, and the public would have found new resolve to tolerate American battlefield losses. Now, though, it already seems like old news, and with more soldiers dying in the same news cycle, the questions will continue.

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