Question to the New York Times: At what point does a "surprise visit" by an American official to Iraq stop being described as a "surprise" and start being referred to by a more ordinary, workaday terms -- say, an "unplanned" or an "unscheduled" visit? Because it's not like the Times is doing it occasionally. I did a quick search of the paper and came up with the following stories over the past year or so (boldface mine):
July 13, 2006
General Casey appeared at a news conference here with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who made a surprise visit to American troops at an air base in Balad, north of Baghdad, before meeting with Mr. Maliki in the capital to discuss plans to improve this city’s deteriorating security.
June 19, 2006
Whether the task is plotting last week's surprise trip to Baghdad or improving the flow of information at meetings -- ''I actually spent a good hour or two thinking about the structure of the table,'' [Chief of Staff Josh Bolten] said of the Roosevelt Room -- few details have been too small to escape his notice.
April 26, 2006
On Wednesday, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld made a surprise visit to Baghdad -- his first in 2006 -- to meet with Jawad al-Maliki and other officials just days after the Shiite politician was selected as prime minister-designate. A spokesman for Mr. Rumsfeld said his visit was intended to offer support for the new government.Dec. 19, 2005
Vice President Dick Cheney paid a surprise visit to Iraq, the opening move in the White House's extraordinary daylong effort to shore up public support for continued military involvement there. His visit came as insurgents' attacks in central and northern Iraq left at least nine people dead.
April 12, 2005
Mr. Rumsfeld's surprise visit [to Iraq], which was not announced in advance because of security concerns, is to include meetings with Jalal Talabani, the Kurdish militia leader who is the new president, and with Ibrahim al-Jaafari, the leader of a Shiite religious party who has been nominated to be prime minister. The daylong trip to Iraq will allow Mr. Rumsfeld to conduct the first face-to-face meetings by an American cabinet secretary with the new leaders since they were chosen.
Maybe this sounds like a quibble but doesn't "surprise visit" have a whiff of spin and p.r. to it? The impression it leaves is that these busy, important guys are graciously taking time out of their nutty schedules to treat the folks serving over there to a little unexpected but much appreciated face time.