The politics of the Iraq Study Group:
Former Secretary James Baker and Lee Hamilton defended their report on "Good Morning America" this morning. Hamilton acknowledged that while there are risks in their recommendations, "the path we're on now is also high risk" and there is the "reasonable chance that this can succeed." Baker emphasized that "there really is no magic formula" and the report "does not in any way call for a graceful exit" making clear that it suggests our troops take on an enhanced role in Iraq "for a long, long time."
The duo also responded to criticism that drawing Iran and Syria into the discussion is not beneficial, Baker emphasized that "all we're suggesting is doing with them what we did in Afghanistan" repeating that they're "simply suggesting we do what we've already done."
ABC News' George Stephanopoulos also weighed in on GMA stating that "the President's going to have no choice but to make an address" to the public to outline his strategy now that the group has issued their 79 recommendations.
The Washington Post's Glenn Kessler and Thomas Ricks report that the ISG report will "help incoming Democratic congressional leaders frame the debate over Iraq as a disaster largely of the administration's making." LINK
Sheryl Gay Stolberg writes in a New York Times analysis, "For Mr. Bush to embrace the study group's blueprint would mean accepting its implicit criticism of his democracy agenda, reversing course in Iraq and throughout the Middle East and meeting Democrats more than halfway." LINK
Stolberg continues, "Assuming he is not ready to go that far, despite some recent signals of flexibility, he faces the more general question of whether he is ready to embrace the spirit of the report -- not to mention the drubbing his party took in the midterm elections a month ago -- and produce a new approach of his own that amounts to more than a repackaging of his current worldview."
"Administration officials said they expected President Bush to announce his own 'way forward' this month. They were careful not to take issue with the report's findings in public, and said Mr. Bush had yet to make firm decisions. But some suggested that the diplomatic strategy in the report better fit the Middle East of 15 years ago, when Mr. Baker served as secretary of state," writes David Sanger of the New York Times. LINK
The Washington Times' Charles Hurt reports that congressional Democrats -- including ones who voted in favor of going to war -- portrayed the ISG Report as vindicating their criticism of the war effort as they pledged to begin "'extensive hearings'" in January that will "continue for months." LINK
ABC News' Jake Tapper writes in his Blog "Political Punch" that, despite what you see in most media coverage, not everyone is happy with the Baker report. For example, Bill Bennett wrote in the National Review that, "In all my time in Washington I've never seen such smugness, arrogance, or such insufferable moral superiority. Self-congratulatory. Full of itself. Horrible." LINK
Robert Gates for SECDEF:
A bipartisan chorus of approval for Bob Gates as Secretary of Defense. The AP has the vote count including Sen. Santorum's parting shot. The new SECDEF is expected to be sworn in on December 18. LINK