Cut and Stroll?
I’ve been travelling a fair piece from Virginia this week andÂ will be some of next.Â I don’t know whether to feel deprived or blessed that I’m missing theÂ two weeks running up to the Elections.Â I don’t watch much television even when I’m home, but I’m sure one advantage of being a few time zones away is that I’m missing a lot of negative adverts.Â
Thanks to the time difference, I didÂ have the advantage of watching President Bush’s appearance early this this morning before going to work.Â Â The tone and content showed far more candor and publicly-revealed situational awareness than I have ever seen out of the civilian side of the Administration.Â It seems to be an inescapable facet of modern staff-work that this President always is getting hobbled by semantic burdens (“timetables” are bad, “benchmarks” are good, and the two should never be confused).Â Our definition of conditions of “victory” now seem to have shifted to a “self-sustaining”Â Iraqi government (we’re giving up on NewÂ England-style town meetings, I think).Â Â Gone were what our friend, James Atticus Bowden, frequently and aptly refers to as “Wilsonian” riffs that drive a lot of usÂ nuts in the Iraqi context.Â
This kind of talk would have meant much more if it had come a long time ago, particularly not two weeks before an election that seems to be goingÂ badly.Â The people around the president, people whoÂ have given him appallingly bad advice for approximately five years (anything post-November 2001), apparently haveÂ decidedÂ (long after most of the rest of us) thatÂ when all the hype and spin about thisÂ adventure fails, a little candor may be the onlyÂ optionÂ available.Â I must say I prefer governments that start from that position, rather than those that end up there after all else has failed to bedazzle the electorate.
It will be interesting (and possibly amusing) to watch the candidates, particularly the ones who barked and clapped like trained seals in the early days of the Iraqi excursion and in the early days of this campaign, try to conform to the signal the President was sending today about how to talk about what is a very difficult issue with no easy solutions.Â Â Â (The e- blast talking points aren’t as simple as hurling “cut and run” at your opponent).Â
Thirty minutes of relatively straight talk from the President isn’t a policy and it isn’t a cure, but it is, like the joke about 200 lawyers at the bottom of the ocean, a good start.
PS:Â Now that I’m in a place where I’ve got some connectivity, I see that our colleague, LoudounÂ Insider, kicked off a great chain on this subject (last week’s casualties in Iraq).Â A lot of sincere, thoughtfulÂ comments.Â For those who expressed amazement that Republicans (gasp!) could have a thoughtful dialogue on this subject, be assured that thereÂ is a vigorous debate on thisÂ among us.Â Â Iraq isn’t a reflection of Republican principles, it’s a case study in echo-chambered group think, hugely amateurish intelligence analysis, macho posturing, poor planning, incoherent geopolitical sensibilities, and generalÂ incompetence.Â Â Democrats and Republicans ought to come to the issue with aÂ view to helping the country get through with minimal long-term damage.Â I fear that if we have the predicted major realignments in the Congress, the resulting focus will be a retrospective blamefest between now and 2008, rather than the best minds of both parties trying to findÂ programs and policies that best serve the interests of the Republic.