The news from Iraq is grim. Caught in an escalating civil war, and unable to admit that "mistakes were made" for a variety of reasons (including that Bush never admits mistakes, and admitting one of this magnitude would cause the November election to become somewhere between a rout and a debacle of historic proportions), the President has turned to his father's consigliere to get him out of trouble one more time.
James A. Baker III , the Republican co-chairman of a bipartisan commission assessing Iraq strategy for President Bush, said today that he expected the group to depart from Mr. Bush's call to "stay the course."..
Mr. Baker, who served Mr. Bush's father as secretary of state and White House chief of staff, did explicitly reject a rapid withdrawal from Iraq, which he said would only invite Iran, Syria and "even our friends in the gulf" to fill the power vacuum.
While heading the commission, Mr. Baker has been talking to President Bush regularly and is unlikely to issue suggestions that the president has not tacitly approved. The independent panel was requested by Congress. Today, he was asked about statements last week by the Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Senator John W. Warner of Virginia, who said Iraq was "drifting sideways" and urged consideration of a "change of course" if the Iraqi government cannot restore order in two or three months.
Asked if he agreed with that timetable, Mr. Baker said: "Yes, absolutely. And we're taking a look at other alternatives."
In interviews over the past two weeks, other members of the Iraq Study Group, an independent organization that came together with the reluctant blessing of the White House, have expressed concern that within months whatever course the group recommends will be overtaken by violence and other developments in Iraq.
So now we've got both Baker and Warner floating trial balloons while at the same time the WH adds that these ballons are being floated with "reluctant blessings" from the President (a previous NY Times story claims that Bush was blindsided by Warner's comments).
The election is 4 weeks away. "Stay the course" is as dead in the water as the chances that Dennis Hastert will repeat as Speaker of the House. Or, as unlikely as the chances that the country will ever forgive Bush for getting us into this untenable mess in the first place.
He'll need something to propose to be able to work with the new Congress. The Iraq Study Group will try and come up with something. It remains to be seen whether rapidly progressive events on the ground in Iraq will make any of this useful. But this further evidence that Bush isn't completely delusional about Iraq is the only bit of welcome news on the topic we're likely to hear for some time.