I watched the president's Iraq escalation speech in a crowded bar where about a third of the crowd was playing a drinking game tied to Bush's use of key words and phrases (we had to drink 6 times for "Iran"). The other two-thirds of the bar would have definitely preferred that the TVs stayed on basketball, but we drinking-gamers called ahead to get the bartender to promise to play the speech, so the whole bar had to suffer through it.
All but the exact text of the president's speech had been leaked ahead of time, so there was really only one big surprise in the speech once the president actually delivered it. The whole bar -- drinking-gamers, basketball fans, even the busy bartenders themselves -- all erupted in laughter when he said it:
"Acting on the good advice of Senator Joe Lieberman and other key members of Congress, we will form a new, bipartisan working group..."
Joe Lieberman? Did he really just call-out Joe Lieberman? For one brief moment, the bar was united in shocked laughter as the president showed what "bipartisan" means to him. Bipartisan = the White House plus the Connecticut for Lieberman Party, apparently.
The newsflash that the entire Democratic Party as represented on Capitol Hill is against escalating the war has apparently not reached the White House. Same goes for news that a substantial portion of the president's own Republican Party is against escalating the war (Republican sources told the New York Times this week that the party is expecting ten GOP Senators to oppose the plan).
In White House Bubblevision 2007, the president nevertheless feels that he has bipartisan support for his war escalation because he likes it, and Joe Lieberman likes it, too.
Singling out Joe Lieberman by name shows how desperate the White House is to make it look like anyone agrees with him about Iraq. None of the stakeholders in the war -- the Iraqi government, the US military, the American people, the Iraqi people -- want an escalation. A majority in both houses of Congress opposes it, too.
Rachel Maddow is the host of "The Rachel Maddow Show," which airs nationwide on Air America Radio affiliate stations from 6 p.m. - 8 p.m. ET.
The question for the nation now is how to burst the president's bubble, and shift the debate on the war back to more realistic terms. I believe Congress should block the president's plan if the president insists on recklessly ignoring the wishes of every important stakeholder in the war, and proceeds with this escalation.
The lesson that any average sixth grader could have learned from Operation Together Forward and the other previous troop surges in Baghdad is that putting American troops on the ground in Baghdad aggravates the sectarian situation there. US troops on the streets do not stabilize the city or reduce violence there.
Being opposed to a US troop increase in Baghdad does not mean that you don't like freedom or that you're a "pessimist", as the president accused in his speech. It means that you have seen this plan tried before, it's clear that it doesn't work, and when something doesn't work, by definition, it's not worth it.
The debate right now on Iraq ought to be how to get our troops off Iraq's streets in a way that minimizes the threat to Iraqi civilians, and maximizes the chance of survival of an Iraqi government. In barrooms and at dinner tables and on radio talk shows around the country, that debate is happening every day in America.
It's a shame the president (and his pal Joe) are missing out inside their "bipartisan" bubble.
Rachel Maddow is the host of "The Rachel Maddow Show," which airs nationwide on Air America Radio affiliate stations from 6 p.m. - 8 p.m. ET..