WASHINGTON, June 8
Zarqawi is dead.
A decent interval has passed.
The politics has begun.
The briefed facts so far (safe house, killed by air, macho American tracking ingenuity, body recovered and fully identified, video documentation, few or no civilian or U.S. collateral damage, letting the Iraqis announce it, the simultaneous additions to the new government) could not be better politically even if General Rove had directed the operation. You are watching the rollout of a serious PR plan.
Major 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue tick-tocking has already taken place, and it will continue, unabated, throughout the day.
Things the White House cannot (totally) control:
When will the first public poll with presidential job approval numbers come out? (If CNN and Fox have different numbers, how will the nation -- and the on-air talent -- deal with that?)
When will be the first time that DeanPelosiReid speak out, starting the Rube Goldberg process LINK that goes from Karl-Rove's-ears-to-Ken-Mehlman's-BlackBerry-to-Tracey-Schmitt's-keyboard-to-Jack-Kingston's-talking-points-to-the-Limbaugh-Institute-for-Advanced-Conservative-Studies?
Will the tears of Ann Coulter's book publicist fill the large or extra large popcorn tub?
How much more violence will there be this week in Iraq?
Watch how Democrats handle today's news (and if they regret sending the that letter about Ambassador Khalilzad canceling his Senate briefing appearance).
Republicans will be watching to see if the death narrows/increases the national security gap between the parties in public opinion surveys.
For now, morning comments from President Bush and Sen. Biden sounded remarkably similar. Praise for the troops and the significant victory and caution the American people that there is much more work ahead.
President Bush got high marks from morning pundits for not using the words "mission accomplished" in his Rose Garden remarks.
President Bush also announced that he will be meeting with his top national security officials at Camp David next week as well as with Iraq's national security officials to discuss "how best to deploy America's resources in Iraq." President Bush cautioned, "We have tough days ahead of us in Iraq that will require the patience of the American people."
CNN's Candy Crowley Noted the President's emphasis on moving the ball forward in Iraq, and called his tone "pitch-perfect."
On "Good Morning America," ABC News' George Stephanopoulos called the killing of Zarqawi a "big shot in the arm for the White House." Stephanopoulos said the White House is hoping that Zarqawi's killing will be a "real booster shot for the Iraqi government" and a "circuit breaker" for the American people, allowing them to look at Iraq with "new eyes."
NBC's Matt Lauer said the President was "clearly elated, though cautious in his tone."
John Burns of the New York Times writes up the announcement, recalling the capture of Saddam Hussein and Noting that "this time, the mood of the American and Iraqi leaders was more cautious, though Mr. Maliki, opening the news conference with the formal announcement of the Zarqawi killing, was greeted by celebratory shouts." LINK
The Los Angeles Times' story Notes that local Iraqis tipped off security forces to Zarqawi's location (and reminds us that the U.S. was offering a $25 million reward for information leading to his capture or killing). LINK