Gaming the War: Bush Seeks to Win Back the Public


Here are 10 things we know heading into President Bush's 9 pm ET address on the Iraq war this evening:

1. Rudolph Giuliani isn't voting for Hillary Clinton, and Mitt Romney isn't voting for Barack Obama.

2. All of the Republicans -- including John McCain -- would rather attack Democrats (and than back the president's strategy.

3. All of the Democrats -- particularly Barack Obama -- would rather talk about the president's mistakes (though not necessarily their own votes) than what to do next.

4. There will be more than 100,000 US troops in Iraq on Jan. 20, 2009, and there might be 150,000.

5. There will be more than 100 congressional hearings on Iraq before Nov. 4, 2008, and there might be 1,000.

6. Obama sounds like an NPR listener -- and just may be a big Ted Koppel fan.

7. John Edwards is copying Fred Thompson's playbook (!), and while he needs to find a cheaper way to dominate the message wars, his two-minute (paid) rebuttal to the president will make him the envy of the news cycle.

8. The Democrats who want to be president will -- again -- be pushing an uncomfortable congressional majority leftward.

9. Gen. David Petraeus bought the president a smidge of wiggle room on Iraq -- and a bit more time.

10. That may not be a good thing for the GOP (and the White House will severely miss Tony Snow as that dynamic develops).

The president's speech has the feel of overkill (hasn't his team made his points for him already this week?), yet that doesn't diminish the stakes as he tries to get the public back on his side (or, at least, not wholly against him) for one last push.

Democrats aren't buying that his plan means real troop withdrawals, but Bush is seeking to reclaim the "uniter" mantle nonetheless with a different tone, if not a major change in substance.

"With lawmakers openly skeptical of his troop buildup, Mr. Bush will cast his plan for a gradual, limited withdrawal as a way to bring a divided America together -- even as he resists demands from those who want him to move much faster," write Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Steven Lee Myers of The New York Times.

Democratic leaders in Congress know there's little they can do to force the president's hand (though we won't hear that admission from Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., in his rebuttal tonight). But the 2008 candidates have begun to find their voices again on Iraq -- in ways that seem destined to make congressional leaders squirm.

Obama, D-Ill., unveiled his latest Iraq plan yesterday -- and though it's not really that different than Clinton's, he included plenty of veiled shots at the Democratic frontrunner.

"It was not lost on Obama's audience at Ashford University -- in the town of Clinton, of all places -- whom he meant to single out as a politician who failed to read the Iraq intelligence for herself: Hillary Clinton," Newsweek's Richard Wolffe writes.

But Obama isn't saying how he'll vote on the question of troop funding when and if it comes to that again in Congress -- a (lack of) position that is drawing him fire from Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., and will also no doubt provoke Edwards, D-N.C.

"When asked if he would 'tell leadership that a vote to continue to fund this war without a concrete timetable for withdrawal is wrong,' Obama would not tip his hand," ABC's Jonathan Greenberger reports.

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