It’s as close to an admission of fallibility as you’re likely to hear from a prominent political correspondent: “I predicted here that the August congressional recess would be a difficult time for Republicans, because they would be returning to their districts to face voters who were furious over the Iraq war,” writes Karen Tumulty at Time’s Swampland. “But if this morning’s Washington Post is right, the exact opposite has happened: It’s the Democrats who are being put on the defensive over the war.”
So, what did the Post’s Jonathan Weisman and Anne E. Kornblut report? “Democratic leaders in Congress had planned to use August recess to raise the heat on Republicans to break with President Bush on the Iraq war. Instead, Democrats have been forced to recalibrate their own message in the face of recent positive signs on the security front, increasingly focusing their criticisms on what those military gains have not achieved: reconciliation among Iraq’s diverse political factions.”
Cue the grumbling from the left. “With all this undisciplined, rambling ‘the surge is working’ talk and a Republican ad blitz coming around the corner to bolster Bush’s White House Report, it’s clear the Democrats have strayed so dangerously off message as to threaten what we’ve worked for all this time,” writes the liberal radio host Taylor Marsh. “Bush got his surge, with an escalation on top. The political movement in Iraq is non-existent, but yet the Democrats are about to be pressured that ‘the surge is working’ through a political ad blitz right before Petreaus delivers the White House Report on — wait for it — 9/11/07.”
Then the triumphalism from the right: “The Democrats have already admitted that good new in Iraq is bad new for Democrats,” writes Paul at the conservative collective Wizbang. “So now they have to change the message and whine about the supposed lack of political progress. It’s not surprising they continue to use Iraq as a political football. They have a long history of it.”
Michael van der Galien at The Moderate Voice, however, keeps his reflexes in check:
Where the strategy was first to argue that the military surge would not work, the Democrats seem to be ready to acknowledge — behind closed doors that is — that they were wrong. Instead of admitting that publicly, though, they choose to focus on something else: the main message is and remains the same — Iraq is lost. There is no hope. Now, I am a critic of the surge — I supported the war for a long time until I believed that Bush et al. messed it up beyond repair. I criticized the surge because, to me, it seemed as if it was too little and especially too late. However, now I see that there might be something good happening in Iraq I — and other critics — have to be so honest to acknowledge the progress made. This does not mean that we should suddenly embrace the surge, but it does mean that we should try to keep an open mind about it. As I said, basically, when the surge started: I hope Bush proves me wrong. He just might.
“Just might”? Well, that’s an assessment that lives up the blog’s name.
Remembrance of Fries Past
August has traditionally been considered a slow news month (as a newspaper employee who long lacked the seniority for late-summer vacation, I’d beg to differ — remember Boris Yeltsin on that tank?), so the press tends to draw up a lot of coverage of anniversaries — get ready for Katrina redux. Laura Rozen at Mother Jones’s MoJoBlog brings up the fourth anniversary of something a great proportion of Americans have likely forgotten, or at least tried to erase from their memories: “It was only four years ago that Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio) and Walter Jones (R-NC) announced the official name change in Congressional cafeterias from French fries and French toast to Freedom Fries and Freedom Toast.”
“My, how les temps have changed!” she adds. “Now ex-Rep Ney is serving 30 months jail time, Jones has become a fierce war critic, and lo and behold, the French may be coming to the rescue in Iraq.” To back up that last claim, she cites a Washington Post report that “French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner used a surprise trip to Baghdad to call on European countries to help the United States repair Iraq.”
Rozen’s take: “Kouchner’s humanitarian background as co-founder of the medical relief group Medecins Sans Frontieres may begin to explain the willingness to overlook the anti French GOP posturing of the not so distant past and to let bygones be bygones.”