Bush's desperation only spells more determination
The Washington Post reports this morning that our increasingly cornered commander in chief will initiate an end run around Congress and, it's implied, around himself, through a fresh "campaign emphasizing his intent to draw down U.S. forces next year and move toward a more limited mission if security conditions improve" [emphasis added].
The White House's working theory, as reported yesterday by the New York Times, is that it should do unto itself what Congressional Republican apostates -- in league with those defeatist Democrats -- are huddling over anyway. The administration can then, true to form, claim to have seized the initiative. Presto ... the Commander Guy is still in charge, ever the decider.
Said an unnamed source on the inside, "When you count up the votes that we’ve lost and the votes we’re likely to lose over the next few weeks, it looks pretty grim.... Lots of people are concluding that the president has got to get out ahead of this train." (An intriguing and perhaps unconsciously refined metaphor: Was he thinking "train wreck"?)
Just in case, the White House is also getting out ahead in the phraseology department, which is, of course, key to any effective re-education program. It's already calling whatever machinations it is plotting a "post-surge redeployment," or, in the military's preferred acronymic lingo, a PSR, (pronounced "PISSER").
But this rumor of attitudinal retooling would seem to put the proverbial cart before the horse. Given the president's incessant, stubborn insistence that the U.S. is going nowhere until Iraqis have secured their elusive stability, and given that that stability is what he sees as his cherished legacy, would Mr. Bush really permit himself to be pushed around -- to any degree -- by a mere, co-equal branch of government?
However much I agree with Frank Rich's Sunday assessment of our "cowardly" president, everything points to a rigid, last-stand mentality on Mr. Bush's part on this one. His theme song will remain "My Way."
It is true, as Mr. Rich noted, that the president's "failure to have the courage of his own convictions [regarding the Vietnam war] was apparent early in his history," and that the president has bobbed and weaved and ducked and skirted his professed convictions ever since, on virtually every issue, from weasely signing statements to a monstrously hypocritical commutation.
But it's that very history of cowardice, that record of a thousand deaths already suffered by Mr. Bush, that would seem to ensure that this, indeed, in his mind, will be his final, immovable, heroic stand.
What, after all, is left? What other legacy could he leave, other than one of repeated failure and disgrace? From vast fiscal recklessness to an unthought-out war of generational repercussions, the trail of national wreckage that Mr. Bush is leaving behind must be clear even to him.
Other than slashing desperately needed government revenue (which, in any event, will have to be restored), he's lost on everything: Social Security reform, immigration reform, his "permanent" Republican majority, on and on -- gone, and in shreds.
There remains only this one, last pathetic hope of a cause on which Mr. Bush can possibly hang his legacy. For him to begin cashing out now -- now, when he has nothing else left to lose -- or later in September is almost unimaginable.
The WP also notes that "key Republican senators have indicated that they would not be satisfied with a change in political spin over a real change in strategy." Then either prepare yourselves, guys, for a whole lot of dissatisfaction, or learn to speak the new lingo.
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