The Note

Brownstein's column in the Los Angeles Times explores President Bush's realization (or Brownstein's assumption of such a realization) that he didn't have the means to achieve the desired ends in Iraq. LINK

"Given all the political and ideological arguments against changing direction, it's reasonable to assume that Bush only returned to the U.N. because he believed he had no other viable option for obtaining the troops, and money, he needs to stabilize Iraq. In other words, in Iraq, reality trumped ideology."

Brownstein ponders if perhaps a similar change in direction is required here at home.

"The conclusion is becoming unavoidable that Bush's repeated tax cuts are leaving Washington without the means to meet its ends. Next year, the federal government is projected to take in revenue equal to just 16.2% of the economy. That's the lowest level since 1959 — long before Medicare, Medicaid and large-scale federal aid to schools, much less a massive obligation to strengthen homeland defenses and rebuild Iraq."

"Surely it wouldn't be easy for Bush to acknowledge that his tax-cut agenda has left Washington without the funds to meet his other goals. But could it really be more difficult than rattling the tin cup for Jacques Chirac and Gerhard Schroeder?"

Dan Balz's must-read analysis in the Washington Post casts Bush's speech as an acknowledgement at last by the White House that post-war efforts in Iraq aren't resulting in a good kind of shock and awe for either U.S. troops or Iraqis. LINK

Balz Notes Bush's shift from unilateral efforts to calling — not asking — for allies in the United Nations to share the duties of rebuilding post-war Iraq, and the conspicuous lack of discussion by the president on weapons of mass destruction last night.

Iraq is a vulnerability, though not yet necessarily an Achilles' heel for Bush right now, Balz says, on top of ongoing problems with the economy. And Democrats are acting like they smell blood in the water.

"Just how vulnerable Bush may be is not clear, but the tone and timing of the speech indicates nervousness at the White House. Although it was never said explicitly, Bush's speech last night represented an important turn in his administration's approach to Iraq. Bush must now hope that it produces results that the current policy has not."

The Washington Post 's Dana Milbank and Mike Allen call President Bush's speech "a stark acknowledgment that the occupation of that country has been more difficult and costly than anticipated." LINK

Bush "described America's mission in the region as open-ended, and came up with his own echo of John F. Kennedy's famous inaugural phrase that the United States would 'pay any price, bear any burden' to defend liberty. LINK

" … while Mr. Bush is getting more specific about the numbers, he has yet to really tell Americans that they will have to make sacrifices to pay the bill," the New York Times editorial page says. LINK

The criticism keeps on coming — the Chicago Tribune's Jeff Zeleny rounds up the reaction of Democratic presidential candidates to the speech. LINK

Horrible, Horrible Double Standards Section:

1. In the Bernie Goldberg category, Terry McAuliffe's "Meet the Press" riff on Willie Horton, John McCain, and the two Bush campaigns was so infused with irresponsible and inaccurate language that it marred what was otherwise one of the Macker's stronger big-time TV appearances to date.

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