A Decent Interval, Part IV

WASHINGTON, Jan. 11

The President's new Iraq plan is based on a series of assumptions.

The Gang of 500 (ALL 500 members in this case, not just 492 of them) has its own set of core assumptions about the politics of Iraq:

1. The coming wave of public opinion polls are going to show pretty much what ABC News/WP found immediately after the Bush speech. LINK

2. Under the normal rules of politics, a president who has a determined and united congressional majority against him; public opinion against him; and many prominent voices in his own party against him, would look for a political way out -- but George W. Bush plays by different rules. He isn't up for re-election; he doesn't care about the polls; he does not seem to care about the long-term politial hopes of his party, such as if Sens. Coleman or Sununu have tough re-election fights; and he doesn't care if relentless pursuit of his Iraq goals crushes whatever chance he has of achieving anything else in the last two years of his presidency.

The Note also sees some seemingly flat-out wrong assumptions being made about the Iraq situation:

1. George W. Bush: "Most of Iraq's Sunni and Shia want to live together in peace." (More right is David Brooks in the New York Times: "The enemy in Iraq is not some discrete group of killers. It's the maelstrom of violence and hatred that infects every institution, including the government and the military. Instead of facing up to this core reality, the Bush administration has papered it over with salesmanship and spin.")

2. Howard Fineman: "I have never seen [George W. Bush], in public or private, look less convincing, less sure of himself, less cocky." LINK (You might have been knowing W for a long time, Howard, but the visual you and some others saw doesn't reflect the more fundamental reality: the man is as assured and as cocksure as ever.)

3. The bullies at the Wall Street Journal ed board: "We'll bet Mr. [Carl] Levin never has the political nerve to follow through on anything but TV sound-bite criticism." (We predict that there will be a snowballing of Democratic "nerve," as caucus unity, Bush recalcitrance, public opinion polls, donors, and bloggers lead towards increasingly loud choruses of "Change now.")

In the short term, watch two things:

A.The hearings on the Hill. B.More Republican defections.

In the medium term, watch two things:

A. How quickly congressional Democrats move from symbolic votes to substantive, teethy ones. B. (Have we mentioned), more Republican defections.

In the long term -- all that matters -- watch two things:

A. Facts on the ground. B. How long Mr. Bush is willing to defy political gravity to pursue his Unholy Grail.

Almost as if he is involved in a campaign run by Andy Card, President Bush participates in the presentation of a posthumous Medal of Honor to Marine Corporal Jason Dunham, who died on April 22, 2004, eight days after jumping on a grenade in Karabilah, Iraq at 9:50 am ET. President Bush then has lunch with troops and makes remarks at Freedom Hall in Fort Benning, GA at 12:40 pm ET.

Top Bush Administration officials will be on the Hill today.

After spearheading a morning White House presser that most of the cable networks inexplicably found too boring to stay with, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice testifies before both the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at 10:00 am ET and the House Foreign Affairs Committee at 2:00 pm ET.

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