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This Is A War, Not A Campaign

The kindest way to put it is to say the White House got caught with its talking points down.

All week officials told reporters the President had not been keeping up with the war on television; standard practice in a political campaign. Image makers never want us to think their man keeps up with news coverage - admit that and they have to admit he's aware of what his critics are saying, and they want you to believe he's above all that.

But now we know - courtesy of Elizabeth Bumiller of "The New York Times." The president has been watching TV.

One of the President's old friends told her the president -- as any intelligent person would -- checks TV frequently to get war updates and that he laughed when he heard a reporter quote White House officials who claimed he didn't.

Small stuff, but another indication that the government's official spokesmen -- military and civilian -- are too often putting out political spin instead of information.

I believe we had no choice but to disarm Saddam, but rallying public support with all that spin about how easy it would be, worried me from the start.

That's why it bothered me when the Army's top ground commander in Iraq said the enemy wasn't reacting the way we expected and official spokesmen dismissed his comments as if he were a campaign operative who had gotten off message.

One official spokesman even suggested the general didn't have the big picture. Excuse me -- the top ground commander didn't have the big picture?

If the administration wants to be believed, and that will be necessary to hold public support, the message it needs to stay on is to forget the spin, acknowledge mistakes, stick to the truth and get on with winning the war.

This is a war, not a campaign, and Americans know the difference.

By Bob Scieffer