You've probably seen the articles about the candidates distancing themselves from Bush since he is so unpopular right now with not only the public but the base as well. I think that Thompson handles this situation in the right way in his interview with the Times of London. He focuses on the future and what he will do and refuses to dwell on the mistakes of the president:
It is extremely rare for a party to win the White House when its incumbent is as unpopular as Mr Bush. Some Republicans think that to stand a chance next year they will have to run in effect against their own President, just as Nicolas Sarkozy did in his successful campaign in France this year. Mr Thompson is not sure. His approach seems to be: change the subject.
“I think the country is ready for a different approach to some things but it’s not all about Bush . . . Spending too much time in self-flagellation or worrying about the past or assessing blame is not a good thing. It’s time we move on and had a candidate talk about what he believes in.”
Mr Thompson seems ready to take advantage of the powerful sense of frustration among voters with all political leaders these days and run essentially on an anti-Washington, “a pox on all your Houses”, ticket. Americans are upset, he says, that “Washington is too much of a partisan maelstrom to deal with the serious times that we live in. I like to think they look at me and see that I’m doing the thing for the right reason.”
The would-be president is increasingly vocal about the mistakes that have been made in Iraq. “My own analysis is that we clearly were not prepared for the challenge we faced there,” he says. “It turned out to be different than what we thought: the nature of the enemy, the difficulties of that particular society that had been decaying from within because of Saddam. In retrospect we should have done more to establish stability very early.
“Any hints of anarchy should have been controlled at all costs on the very front end and the borders should have been better secured at all costs.”
Mr Thompson says that America will be much more cautious in future, but still insists that the nation’s cause was a worthy one. “I think there’ll be a new dose of realism in what we do in the future but we will not lose our idealism in the process. Democracy is not only a good thing in its own right. It is also a stabilising force in the long run and it has been introduced into a part of the world that has not had it before.”
I really don't care about the president's mistakes, I'm more interested in what the next president intends to do once he gets into office. I think that if the candidates are smart, they will ignore the president and focus on their own message. I know it's going to be hard because the template for the MSM is that the candidates have an albatross around their neck called George W. Bush and they have account for it. Not letting them set the agenda will be key to running a successful campaign.
Rational people understand that there is no such thing as a perfect war and that mistakes are expected. It's important for the candidates to admit that and move on. No one should be expected to defend Bush's mistakes when he doesn't do it himself.