By Dennis Byrne http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2006/06/bush_playing_like_a_big_league.html Oops, President George Bush's approval rating has started to inch back up, so we media need to do something about it. I got it; let's hint around that Bush was a coward for visiting Baghdad's "Green Zone," the protected American sector but, which we won't mention, is within range of mortars, etc. News person Claire Shipman beat me to it on ABC's Good Morning America when she concluded her report on the president's surprise trip to Iraq: "There's a flip side of course; the fact that the president...had...to...sneak...into Baghdad [emphasis not added] hardly suggests a situation nearing stability there." Back to you Robin Roberts at the anchor desk, for an endorsement: "Good point," Roberts seconded. Good thing we had Claire to point it out; many people otherwise might have thought that Bush was on a stroll through Ramadi without a flack jacket. If you missed Claire's report, others showed up to remind us that Bush was cowering in an impenetrable stockade. Everyone from the left-wing flamers at the Guardian to Workers World. Which tells you the value of that commentary. The power of "occupiers," the Guardian intoned, "is an amalgam of military might, arrogance and ignorance, and this has manifested itself openly during Bush's visit to the Green Zone." Iraq has an aversion to "occupiers" (meaning Bush) the newspaper said, adding this stupefying observation: "Neither does Baghdad tolerate dictators, oppression and injustice." Workers World, a socialist newspaper, mimicked Shipman, arguing that Bush having "to sneak into" Iraq only proved that Iraq isn't a sovereign nation. Or was it Shipman mimicking Workers World? Joining the chorus were the usual suspects, including Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter's national security advisor and we know how well that team performed in the Middle East. Brzezinski repeatedly reminded viewers of PBS' NewsHour that the Green Zone was an "American fortress." Brzezinski brought us the news that we no longer have "a white man's burden" to civilize others. Bush's visit to an "American fortress" is evidence that we're still a colonial, imperial power. The Iraqi government is not "operating;" it's only receiving American visitors in an "American fortress." On the same program, Walter Mead, a fellow of the Council on Foreign Relations, dared to challenge Brzezinski by pointing out that the U.S, was not--as colonial powers did--fighting against forces of national liberation. We are there to foster national liberation, by supporting a constitution and free elections. America is ever so fortunate to get its news from naifs such as Shipman. It makes you want to shout at her: "It's a war zone. What do you expect? If Bush were wandering around Baghdad like just another campaign stop, you'd be zapping him for being stupid, again." Maybe someone can correct me, but I cannot recall a U.S. president in my lifetime visiting a war's front lines. Dwight D. Eisenhower's visit to Korea was made when he was president elect, in fulfillment of a campaign promise. Naturally, Mead's assertion that conditions have improved over the past year in Iraq will draw the usual hoots from the media and bug-eyed Bush haters. The government is only a few weeks old, he said. Give it a chance. I'd add: Even we can't guarantee that our president can safely walk our streets without getting shot. The elimination of the most sought-after terrorist, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, didn't impress them either. Commentator Tom Friedman said on the same NewsHour, "We can kill the Zarqawis of the world, but we can't kill Zarqawi-ism, [which is] an ideology that basically wants to purge Iraq of all pluralism, not just Americans but anything other than Sunni Muslims." Sure, just as we could get rid of Adolf Hitler, but not Nazism. In getting rid of the bad guys, Bush can't win. The media characterized Bush's inability to nail Zarqawi and Saddam Hussein as evidence of incompetence. Now that they have been eliminated, it's no big deal. Same for Osama bin Laden. The failure to capture the 9-11 mastermind is another reminder of Bush's impotence, even though bin Laden has been reduced to a mountain goat propagandist. That Bush's approval ratings would start to edge up is remarkable in the face of this constant hammering. True, there is bad news in Iraq. There are more attacks by insurgents and more civilians dying or being wounded. Baghdad still is too short of electricity. You can find these and other problems in the Brookings Institution's Iraq Index (http://www.brookings.edu/iraqindex). But while you're there, look for improvements: The fewest American combat deaths in more than two years; the fewest wounded in combat in three years; increasing numbers of U.S. contractors and federal civilians; attacks on oil and gas pipelines down dramatically; the list of most wanted insurgents has dropped from 65 in 2003, to 25 now; 265,000 Iraqi security forces are trained, almost at the goal of 272,000; the number of actionable tips from civilians has skyrocketed in a year, to 4,578 from 453; per capita gross domestic product has doubled since 2003, and is higher than pre-war levels; car and telephone ownership has soared; internet subscribers, went from a pre-war 4,500 to more than 200,000; there are 268 independent newspapers and magazines, compared with zero pre-war. At least one mainstream commentator, David Gergen, advisor to presidents and now a Harvard University professor, showed some signs that he can observe facts. Discussing recent developments in Iraq, he said: "[It's] too early to say if it's a turning point, but certainly the winds have shifted. They [the administration] are now playing like big leaguers again. They look a lot more like the New York Yankees than the Chicago Cubs." As a Chicagoan who has followed the pathetic Cubs since they were last in the World Series (1945), the administration doesn't deserve that.