Archive for Saturday, February 17, 2007

President is regaining political strength

February 17, 2007


— It may seem perverse to suggest that, at the very moment the House of Representatives is repudiating his policy in Iraq, President Bush is poised for a political comeback. But don't be astonished if that is the case.

Like President Clinton after the Democrats lost control of Congress in 1994, Bush has gone through a period of wrenching adjustment to his reduced status. But just as Clinton did in the winter of 1995, Bush now shows signs of renewed energy and is regaining the initiative on several fronts.

More important, he is demonstrating political smarts that even his critics have to acknowledge.

His reaction before the House vote opposing the increase he has ordered in U.S. troops deployed to Iraq illustrates the point.

When Bush faced reporters on Wednesday morning, he knew that virtually all those in the Democratic majority would be joined by a significant minority of Republicans in voting Friday to decry the "surge" strategy.

He did three things to diminish the impact of that impending defeat.

First, he argued that the House was at odds with the Senate, which had within the past month unanimously confirmed Gen. David Petraeus as the new commander in Iraq - the man Bush said was the author of the surge strategy and the man who could make it work. Bush has made Petraeus his blocking back in this debate - replacing Vice President Cheney, whose credibility is much lower.

Second, he minimized the stakes in the House debate by endorsing the good motives of his critics, rejecting the notion that their actions would damage the morale of U.S. troops or embolden the enemy - all by way of saying that the House vote was no big deal.

And third, by contrasting Friday's vote on a nonbinding resolution with the pending vote on funding the war in Iraq, he shifted the battleground to a fight he is likely to win - and put the Democrats on the defensive. Much of their own core constituency wants them to go beyond nonbinding resolutions and use the power of the purse to force Bush to reduce the American commitment in Iraq.

But congressional Democrats are leery of seeming to withhold resources from the 150,000 troops who will be fighting in that country once the surge is complete; that is why they blocked Republicans from offering resolutions of their own in the House or Senate pledging to keep financing the war. Democrats did not want an up-or-down vote on that question, but Bush has now placed it squarely before them.

In other respects, too, Bush has been impressive in recent days.

He has been far more accessible - and responsive - to the press and public, holding any number of one-on-one interviews, both on and off the record, leading up to Wednesday's televised news conference. And he has been more candid in his responses than in the past.

While forcefully making his points, he has depersonalized the differences with his critics and opponents. He has not only vouched for the good intentions of congressional Democrats, he has visited them on their home ground, given them opportunities to question him face to face, and repeatedly outlined areas - aside from Iraq - where he says they could work together on legislation: immigration, energy, education, health care, the budget.

With the public eager for some bipartisan progress on all these fronts, Bush is signaling that he, at least, is ready to try.

At his news conference, he also stepped away from personal confrontation with the rulers in Iran, making it clear that he does not necessarily hold its political leadership responsible for shipping lethal arms to the insurgent Shiites fighting in Iraq.

He insisted the U.S. military would do whatever is necessary to halt the shipments and protect the troops, but he said repeatedly that these defensive measures are not a prelude to aggressive action against Iran.

All this is to the good. But Bush, unlike Clinton, is in the middle of a bloody civil war, which can be ended only by the Iraqis themselves.

All he claims to be able to do is to provide some "breathing space" for them, by attempting to reduce the violence. As he said, "What really matters is what happens on the ground. I can talk all day long, but what really matters to the American people is to see progress."

And whether the American people will see it, no one knows.


Kelly Powell 11 years, 4 months ago

Why can't you fight it with good hindsight....It's called learning from your mistakes.

jonas 11 years, 4 months ago

So. . . he's doing things he should have been doing all along?

That's good, I guess.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 4 months ago

As Molly Ivins used to point out, Bush is great at politics, and an absolute disaster at policy.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 4 months ago

"If you ever need to be told that you are a loser, seek out a liberal, they'll tell ya."

OK, I'll oblige. You're a loser, dambudzo.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 4 months ago

"See what I mean!"

I've yet to see a post of yours yet with any useful meaning.

Jamesaust 11 years, 4 months ago

Not Broder's best piece. Too 'inside the beltway' to gain much perspective. A forest/trees piece.

The next Democrat move, brilliantly authored by Murtha (a man I have little respect for, btw, much like, in private, many of his fellow Democrats) is to require, under the Congress' constitutional authority, that military units be fully rested, armed, and trained before re-deployment.

The brilliance is that (a) that cuts out tens of thousands of troops who otherwise would be asked to head back again ('de-surge'), (b) is so simple and reasonable that even the man on the street can understand the wisdom of it, and (c) highlights the criminal incompetence of an Administration that even after four years at war still cannot - or is it will not? - provide the troops the resources they need and deserve.

Jamesaust 11 years, 4 months ago

I'm not much for online petitions but this one is a worthy effort:

Mkh 11 years, 4 months ago

I got to agree also with James on this statement regarding Murtha's plan. I was reading it yesterday and couldn't help but also think it was brilliant, yet simplistic. Not to mention that it is great for the troops.

On the other hand I think Broder's piece is rather weak. I'm not at all buying his notion of the "President is regaining political strength". The way I see it is that he is about to tear his own party apart with his refusal to compromise on Iraq. Now the GOP is threatened by itself, with more and more members speaking out against "W"'s policies. It is also hard for the GOP and W to try and get back to agendas which are rank and file for the party when they have lost power, and are bogged down with the civil war in Iraq.

It is ironic, considering that pre-Invasion up through the '04 election it has been the Dems with a "house divided" on these key issues of foriegn policy. Now Rep. Ron Paul is not the only GOP party member who wants to bring back conservativism to what it use to mean, and away from the radical fringe of the neo-cons. There are a growing number of Reps and Sens from the GOP that are weakening W's power base.

budwhysir 11 years, 4 months ago

Politicaly speaking, the political views that are covered in this political poll, cover the findings that are of a political nature. This can not and should not be confused with a political poll that would be focused on other political matters.

Curious 11 years, 4 months ago

WAR: You lose a LOT of battles before the victory. Because the people you are fighting are also trying to win. [revolutionary war, civil war, WWI, WWII were mostly lost until the victory. Korea and Vietnam don't count because losing battles there meant you gave up the whole shooting match. I am beginning to believe it is because of the generation who fought WWII. They know and can't put their grandchildren and great grandchildren into a war. They would rather give them up than have them fight. Although that isn't what they think will happen. The bad guys will just go away if we pretend they aren't there.]

WAR: When the opponents control the information, no good news gets out. When the proponents control the information, no bad news gets out. Which means there is usually some of each. You decide which we are getting now.

WAR: You can't fight it with good hindsight. [Can't imagine how many things Senator Clinton would change given all the "hindsight" she has now.]

Curious 11 years, 3 months ago

You are kidding! Aren't you?

Do you have kids? Try raising them with "hind"sight. Hindsight is different than learning from your mistakes. It is "if I knew then, what I know now, I "would" have done . . ." So? It is how that informs your decision today that is relevant. I can't figure out what hindsight has "taught" Mrs. Clinton except that she made a mistake then and wanted a do-over. Sorry. Doesn't work that way. There are no do-overs in real time.

bearded_gnome 11 years, 3 months ago

murtha's "slow bleed plan" makes it abundantly clear that he has no interest in actual success in Iraq! it is shameful.

he is totally invested in failure, and is trying to promote failure.

the other day, the military reported an 80% drop in killings/sectarian violence in Baghdad. MSM doesn't like reporting this. when Drudge posted a similar news story showing success in the early results of the "surge," kooks like thos posting above sent him hundreds of death threats. they too couldn't stand the idea of actual success occurring in Iraq. and wanted to stop the actual news.

what will the Demorats/MSM do when they can no longer ignore actual success on the ground in Iraq? probably lie and try to take credit for it..."we forced the president to take the right steps," and other amazing drivel.

wonder if in her hindsight if Shrillary wants a do-over for the fake southern/black accent that was so pathetic?

GWB has demonstrated amazing staying power and consistancy. he is not like clinton ruling for the photo-op and the poll. what we really need when at war. concensus is simply the lack of leadership, once said Maggie Thatcher.

bearded_gnome 11 years, 3 months ago

GWB will NOT be impeached, and their heads will simply explode!

Commenting has been disabled for this item.