The Week That Wasn't

President Bush addresses the nation on the fifth anniversary of 9/11.
Weekly commentary by CBS Evening News anchor and Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer.

For the Bush administration, it was the week that wasn't — the week that just wasn't the way it was supposed to be.

In a carefully orchestrated campaign built around the fifth anniversary of 9/11, the President had hoped to convince the nation the war on terror was the most serious issue of our time — I happen to believe he is right about that.

But when he turned his prime time speech on 9/11 into a defense of his decision to go to war in Iraq, Democrats accused him of playing politics and reacted with fury.

Worse for the president was the rebellion that broke out among his supporters — Republicans all — about whether the president's ideas about handling enemy prisoners might be endangering our own troops. Some of the president's most conservative supporters said, yes, those ideas would put our troops in danger.

When you consider the critics' credentials — Sen. John McCain of Arizona, once a prisoner of war himself; South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, a member of the judge advocate generals corps in the Air Force Reserve; Sen. John Warner, the hawkish chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee from Virginia; and Colin Powell, once the president's Secretary of State — you have to wonder how this president got himself on opposite sides of this group.

Whatever the answer to that, it left Democrats in an unaccustomed position. They no longer had to quote themselves in their opposition to the president's plan.

For now, they can just refer all questions to Republicans. That's a place no president or his party wants to be, heading into an election.

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By Bob Schieffer