It's the biggest news of the day: Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the most wanted terrorist in Iraq, has been killed, which is certainly good news. Interestingly, the White House is taking a somewhat different approach in discussing this news from Iraq than it has in the past, according to Jim Rutenberg of The New York Times:
Mr. Bush was careful to speak in measured tones this morning, when he announced the news at a hastily called 7:30 a.m. announcement in the Rose Garden.Speaking with White House Press Secretary Tony Snow, Rutenberg offers some insight into the White House's strategy in handling the news:
"Zarqawi is dead, but the difficult and necessary mission in Iraq continues," Mr. Bush said, speaking somberly and betraying no elation. "We can expect the terrorists and insurgents to carry on without him. We can expect the sectarian violence to continue."
Officials also decided to proceed carefully and not repeat mistakes of the past by referring to the capture as a turning point or an end to violence in Iraq, which is expected to, if anything, increase in recent days.CBS News White House correspondent Jim Axelrod thought Bush's announcement had a "a somber tone, reflecting on a serious event." But he didn't notice anything particularly significant about the way the president made his announcement, "I thought his tone was entirely presidential," he said. However, Axelrod added that the White House is "extremely careful in how they handle this. They don't want to give the impression that happy days are here again." He noted that today's comments could be contrasted with the tone of previous comments the president has made about the war. Axelrod cited Bush's news conference with British Prime Minister Tony Blair last month, when the president said that he regretted some of his rhetoric of the past.
"There are no delusions that violence will dry up," Mr. Snow said. "We wouldn't be surprised if we saw a spike in violence as those who were Zarqawi's charges say, 'Look, we're still a factor.' "
Bush said during the news conference May 29: "…saying 'bring it on,' kind of tough talk, you know, that sent the wrong signal to people. I learned some lessons about expressing myself maybe in a little more sophisticated manner--you know, 'wanted dead or alive,' that kind of talk. I think in certain parts of the world it was misinterpreted, and so I learned from that."
With no one entirely certain whether the capture of Zarqawi could unleash more violence in Iraq or turn the tide in a more positive direction, the president's tone today "was an entirely accurate reflection of the White House's thinking," said Axelrod. "As Tony said in the briefing today, 'War has its effect on presidents, too.'"