Morning Political Note: Knots

Still, as one smart, clear-eyed long-time Bush watcher points out: "One of the things, in addition to his comments, that struck me about Bush is the slovenly body language during that presser at Crawford (over the weekend). It all suggested a lack of serious purpose, a detachment, almost a bored indifference to the issue. I know the White House attitude is essentially, 'We don't want to look too seriously identified with all of this because then … we run the risk of a deeper involvement that could fail.' But that pose is looking un-presidential. This is the time that Bush/Rove/Hughes are getting truly exposed for the highly political nature of their foreign policy. It also exposes their naiveté in believing — perhaps still believing — that the Middle East can be spun the way, say, the South Carolina primary was."

Offering a complementary take, another close observer points out, "Bush has no one to blame for the fecklessness and shortsightedness of this policy but himself. Rove and Hughes are simply not players on this stuff. Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice and Powell (in descending order of hawkishness) are. The sad thing is it's not politics driving this debacle; it's considered (or ill-considered) policy."

"The lack of seriousness in Bush's demeanor is, I believe, also a cover for deep insecurity. This is a subject mastery of which cannot be faked, and which is not susceptible to bald platitudes and simple categories. You have to know stuff to get the Middle East right. Bush doesn't. It makes him overly reliant on advisers (who disagree among themselves, resulting in what Zbig Brzezinski called 'strategic incoherence'), and arrogantly insouciant about his own inadequacies."

None of this necessarily means the president's heart is in the wrong place — just that no one seems happy with the status quo, or can say when the status quo will change, either through US leadership or turns of events beyond US control.

The Los Angeles Times ' Robin Wright notes Bush's relative quiet: "Unlike the many world leaders who weighed in on the mounting crisis, Bush was silent Sunday. His only public appearance was at Easter services at a Baptist church near his Texas ranch, and aides said he made no calls to Mideast leaders." ( http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/front/la-000023358apr01.story )?coll=la%2Dheadlines )%2Dfrontpage )

We are sticking to our brief and focusing on the politics of all of this — not in a cynical way, but showing how our democracy is responding to it all (or not responding) — but some of the national political press corps' sharper minds are going to look at this issue this week. The Los Angeles Times ' Ron Brownstein gets the ball rolling. ( http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/asection/la-000023386apr01.column?coll=la%2Dnews%2Da%5Fsection ) )

The latest on the Mideast from ABCNEWS's London Bureau: Israeli tanks have moved into two Palestinian towns in the West Bank, hours after Prime Minister Sharon declared war on what he called Arafat's "terrorist infrastructure." Israeli forces are now in control of Qalqilya, close to the Israeli cities of Tel Aviv and Netanya, both of which have been targeted by Palestinian suicide bombers. Earlier this morning, Israeli tanks and troops entered Bethlehem, but later withdrew to the outskirts of the town.

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