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Iraq speech reaction
Posted by: mcq on Thursday, January 11, 2007

For the most part it has been pretty predictable. On the political front, most Democrats have condemned the plan, a majority of Republicans support it and the usual minority of Republicans aren't sure or don't support it. My initial reaction is here.

Sheryl Gay Stolberg says, in the NYT:
By stepping up the American military presence in Iraq, President Bush is not only inviting an epic clash with the Democrats who run Capitol Hill. He is ignoring the results of the November elections, rejecting the central thrust of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group and flouting the advice of some of his own generals, as well as Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki of Iraq.
Again, the epic clash with the Dems was going to happen no matter what he came up with other than "get out now", er, "immediately redeploy". And yes, he is essentially ignoring the November elections, since they weren't about him, although you have to keep reminding people of that. He's incorporating part of the ISG recommendations (they did say they could sponsor a surge). He is going against the advice of some of his generals, for sure (but that is why he's the head "decider" as CiC), but as for PM Maliki, had he listened to him, the militias would still be off limits and I'm not sure that's true anymore.

Stolberg points out:
Acknowledging that any mistakes in Iraq were his own and that Americans would face “trying hours” in the months ahead, Mr. Bush took pains to say he had consulted with members of Congress. But Democrats complained the consultation was perfunctory. Standing outside the White House after meeting with the president just hours before his speech, Speaker Nancy Pelosi promised to force a vote on Mr. Bush’s plan.

That vote would be nonbinding.
That's the politics of the situation. Bush, by acknowledging mistakes in Iraq, took ownership of the problem and asked for time to fix it. Democrats, politically, want Bush to have ownership because it hurts him specifically and Republicans generally. But what they risk, by too being too adamant in their rejection of the plan and to obstructionist in their role in Congress, is to see themselves blamed for the failure of the plan if Iraq goes in the tank.

For instance, Jack Murtha, who now heads the House defense appropriations subcommittee, plans not just to scrutinize expenditures, but to essentially attempt to obstruct full execution of Bush's plan:
Murtha says he will hold extensive hearings on the budget request. "We're going to make them justify every cent," he said. He also said he may use the funding bill to hamstring the efforts to add more troops to Iraq.

Among the options Murtha said he's considering: barring the redeployment to Iraq of troops who haven't had the recommended one-year respite in the United States and prohibiting those who are in Iraq from having their tours of duty extended.


Murtha said that by inserting language into the administration's request for more money to fund the Iraq war, he can avoid a Bush veto. Murtha said legislation introduced Tuesday by Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., that would require congressional approval of Bush's plan could be vetoed with little consequence. If Congress adds conditions to the Iraq funding bill, Bush will have to accept them or cut off money for the troops. "The supplemental is where the money is," Murtha said. "Nothing else means anything. They can veto anything else."
He's right ... the only available way to stop, or at least cripple this plan rests in the "supplemental". Nothing else does matter. And if Murtha is successful in crippling or stopping the plan through legislation, where does ownership then rest?
"Generally, presidents have a very difficult time changing public opinion," especially once opposition has gelled, says Brandice Canes-Wrone, a professor at Princeton who has studied the power of White House addresses. But Bush's speech may well "buy him some time" to proceed because he is "taking ownership" of a controversial policy.
The key here, obviously, is whether the public, in general, agrees to give him some time. If they don't, then what Murtha is planning will have few real political repercussions. However, if, in general, the public says, "OK, one more chance but make it work", then there may be a heavy political price to pay for Democrats if they pursue the Murtha strategy. If the Bush strategy succeeds, Republicans will claim it did so despite the best efforts of Democrats to derail it. If Murtha is successful in obstructing the plan and the plan fails (while it is demonstrable that the troop strength and funds the president wanted for his plan were not supported by Democrats) then Democrats will be blamed for the failure (whether that blame takes is a another question).
“It’s more than a risk, it’s a riverboat gamble,” said Leon E. Panetta, a Democratic member of the Iraq Study Group and former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton. “There’s no question that under our system he’s going to be able to deploy these troops without Congress being able to stop him. But he’s going to face so many battles over these next few months, on funding for the war, on every decision he makes, that he’s basically taking the nation into another nightmare of conflict over a war that no one sees any end to.”
Yes, it is a "riverboat gamble", but he's not the only one taking a gamble in this, despite Panetta's attempt to paint this as "another nightmare of conflict" over the war. Democrats are also taking a gamble. They feel, not unreasonably, the November elections give them the mandate to do this. It is going to come down to whether the American public decides to give the Commander-in-chief one last chance or not. If they do, Democrats better tread lightly or be prepared to pay the political consequences.

As Carl Leubsdorf of the Dallas Morning News says:
Still, Mr. Bush's initiatives may buy him some time.

The ultimate political verdict won't lie so much in the instant reactions as in the success or failure of his moves.

And despite renewed Democratic vows to force him to change course, they are unlikely to seek more than a symbolic rejection of the escalation for now.

That gives Mr. Bush some time – perhaps six months to a year – to produce some successes.

But if the situation is not noticeably better by next January's presidential caucuses and primaries, it's hard to see any outcome but even greater public pressure to bring American troops home, regardless of what it might mean for Iraq.
I pretty much agree — and that means, politically speaking and despite their inclination to do otherwise, it might make more sense to argue the case against such a plan, but not take overt action to cripple it at this point, but, in the spirit of bi-partisanship, give the president what he wants which, in this case may end up being enough rope to hang his plan. But if it succeeds, and there is an outside chance it will, then Dems can claim at least a portion of the victory.
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Previous Comments to this Post 

Bush had to reach into the 7th fleet and find an officer whose training and background are in carrier operations to find a commander to support this. This should give you some indication of the plans chance of success. Its a case of too little too late. Its doomed to failure.

You advocate acting like Lemmings. Lets follow the leader off the cliff. The american people voted not to go. Hopefully the dems will find a way to stop this maddness.

The only good thing to come from this is after two more years of war, the republican party may be dead.
Written By: cindyb
URL: http://
You advocate acting like Lemmings. Lets follow the leader off the cliff.
Really? Where’d I do that?

Oh, and btw, Cindy, Fallon is, or was, the Commander of the US Pacific Command, so he didn’t come out of "7th Fleet".
Written By: McQ
And yes, he is essentially ignoring the Noveber elections, since they weren’t about him,
If you mean that he ignoring the elections because he was not on the ballot, fine, silly, but fine.

To say the elections were not about Bush would be completely false. Respectable Republicans were defeated in November, not because the Republicans themselves were opposed, but because it WAS ABOUT Bush.

He’s going to try and put lipstick on this pig, I don’t think there is much anyone can do to stop him, and my expectations are low but my hopes are high, but November was all about Bush.

Written By: Captin Sarcastic
URL: http://
There’s a lot of passive-voice talk, in this article and elsewhere, that the Democrats will be blamed for failure if they successfully obstruct what you seem to acknowlege is a plan with little chance of success. Who would be blaming them? And would you, McQ, join in or would you condemn it?
Written By: Lars
URL: http://
You advocate acting like Lemmings. Lets follow the leader off the cliff.
Teddy Kennedy would know about that one
Written By: shark
URL: http://
To say the elections were not about Bush would be completely false.
Obviously not as far as he’s concerned.
Written By: McQ
He is ignoring the results of the November elections
No he’s not, he’s catering to the majority of the electorate in Connecticut.
Written By: looker
URL: http://
You advocate acting like Lemmings. Lets follow the leader off the cliff. The american people voted not to go. Hopefully the dems will find a way to stop this maddness.
So when Pelosi and othe rprominent Dems were just recently calling for an increase, what was that? And now that Bush is doing it, they’re against it. Looks darned well to me that the Dems are the lemmings rushing to oppose oppose oppose without taking responsibility while Bush is the leader who’s actually, ya know, leading with what he thinks is right as opposed to trying to read what way the political wind is blowing.

Written By: shark
URL: http://
Just for fun (really) I visited the comments section of Greenwald’s blog. First, I read his (expected) post condemning Bush and saw that there were 170 comments. That, I reasoned, will give me a good overview of the far left reaction to the President’s speech. In vain I looked for the 10% that I expected would express some, albeit beknighted, hope for success. Other than the “trolls” (one of which was banned for doing so) no one had anything to say except that we were headed to Hell in a handbasket.

When I was in Junior High I remember reading the history of WWII that mentioned the Neville Chamberlain peace effort. I wondered, as did most of the 20/20 hindsight folks, given what followed, how someone could be so misguided. With little experience of my own and no exposure to the pressures and memes of that time, I had to shrug and move on, reserving judgement until further information would throw a light on the puzzling facts.

Well, now I have the needed information. Today, there is more than enough information out there to inform any clear thinker, unburdened from political baggage, to determine that there is a very real threat to our way of life from the militant islamists. September 11th was not an aberration.

Why cannot these fools who are against confronting these threats see the writing on the wall? Of course, they can. Put succinctly, they are 1)gutless cowards; or 2) cynical political opportunists who prefer a much higher-priced response to the militant islamist threat after their party is in power.

Instead of facing the obvious and taking responsibility for the drastic actions needed to confront the enemy, they want to believe that they have taken the moral high ground. Keeping their skirts clean, they want to put off making any decisions that will cause any harm to come to anyone, even if it is clear that there is no “diplomatic” negotiated settlement possible. After all, they say, there may be pie in the sky and if we scrupulously avoid doing anything nasty, maybe some nice will happen.

I fail to see how such a Pollyanna attitude will work out with people who kill innocents with the abandon exhibited by the militant islamists. How can these militant islamists be envisioning making peace with us after they have cut off the heads of some of our noncombatants? One wishes to shout “Wake Up!”. Well, that has been done and the peaceniks feign deafness. I now understand where Mr. Chamberlain was coming from.

I read in their comments their angst and frustration that President Bush is being proactive when he could still wring his hands and dither until something drastic forces our hand. I long to record the names and addresses of these ansgt-ridden folks so that just retribution can be visited upon them when we lose a million or so in the invevitable 9/11 repeats if they get their way.

What they want is to be “forced” by a series of major atrocities to enter the WOT against their ’will’ so that it will not be ‘their fault’. Throughout this war they want to be lily-white and against all ’bad things’. What really gripes my #ss is that they will never admit the error of their ways and will shamelessly enjoy the fruits of their betters’ willingness to take on the horrific*, burdensome tasks necessary to preserve their way of life. Talk about your chickenhawks! Pfegh!!

* I am a Vietnam-era veteran and currently have two beloved grandsons in the USMC (one of whom recently volunteered to eschew his primary job to become a grunt in Iraq – without consulting me, I might add). I assume that he wishes to make rank and experience adventure as I did at his age. Will I become another Cindy Sheehan if he is killed and our efforts in Iraq turn out to be fruitless? Be serious.
Written By: notherbob2
URL: http://
" expectations are low but my hopes are high, but November was all about Bush."
Yes, November was about Bush. It was not, however, a mandate for the far left. Glad to see that your hopes are high. You are the "right" kind of liberal and apparently see the stakes here correctly.
Written By: notherbob2
URL: http://
God speed and a huge thanks to your grandsons, Bob.
Written By: McQ
and from here.
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