Bush Press Aides Hit Dowd -- but Admit A Son Heading for War Can Influence Views

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Critics of the war in Iraq have long charged that supporters of the war might feel differently about if they had a a son or daughter fighting in, or possibly headed for, that conflict. Surveys have shown that very few war supporters in Congress, the White House or serving as officials or campaign directors have children in the military and even fewer in the war.

So it was revealing, in Jim Rutenberg's front-page New York Times story on Sunday, to find former Bush-Cheney campaign chief Matthew Dowd describing one reason for his now famous break with the president: Dowd has a son who will soon be deployed to Iraq. Dowd, a former war backer, even admitted that he had thought about attending peace rallies, and called for a U.S. withdrawal in Iraq.

Two leading Bush spokespersons -- Dan Bartlett on Sunday and Dana Perino at her press briefing today -- have since suggested that Dowd's disenchantment with their man stems partly from "personal" reasons and "emotions," noting his "personal journey" of the past few years, which has included a divorce. Reporters jumped on Perino today for allegedly picturing this argument as being about Dowd's personal life rather than Bush policies and the war. She said, referring to Dowd's personal life, "It think it is relevant."

But both Perino and Bartlett acknowledged that part of Dowd's change in views has to be attributed to having a son getting ready to risk his life in a very difficult war. Bartlett said, "That can only impact a parent's mind when they work through these issues." Perino said, "I can only imagine that that affects a parent's thinking."

Of course, this was the point made by the antiwar types for years: That perhaps if more war supporters were in Dowd's position they might be less willing to send so many into such danger.

Excerpts from Perino press briefing today at White House.*

Q Just going to seek your comments on the Matthew Dowd interview over the weekend.

MS. PERINO: I don't know Matthew Dowd. I wish I did. I have heard nothing but fabulous things about him over the years. I know people are very fond of him. Obviously, war brings out a lot of emotions in different people, and possibly changing emotions, as he laid out in the New York Times. …