For those of us in the reality-based community, it is refreshing to read this analysis of Bush’s shifting message on Iraq from “progress” to avoiding failure. Other politicians are pointing fingers and saying the administration built up expectations and didn’t fully explain the sacrifices that would be necessary.

Christopher F. Gelpi, a Duke University scholar whose research on public opinion in wartime has been influential in the White House, said Bush has little choice.

“He looks foolish and not credible if he says, ‘We’re making progress in Iraq,’ ” Gelpi said. “I think he probably would like to make that argument, but because that’s not credible given the facts on the ground, this is the fallback. . . . If the only thing you can say is ‘Yes, it’s bad, but it could be worse,’ that really is a last-ditch argument.”

As recently as two weeks ago, Bush was still making the case that things in Iraq are better than they seem. The new Iraqi government “has shown remarkable progress on the political front,” he said on Aug. 7, calling its mere existence “quite a remarkable achievement.”


Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a strong supporter of the war, suggested this week that the Bush team has only itself to blame for setting unrealistic expectations.

“One of the biggest mistakes we made was underestimating the size of the task and the sacrifices that would be required,” McCain said. ” ‘Stuff happens,’ ‘mission accomplished,’ ‘last throes,’ ‘a few dead-enders.’ I’m just more familiar with those statements than anyone else because it grieves me so much that we had not told the American people how tough and difficult this task would be.”

I feel your pain, McCain. Sen Lindsay Graham even says “I think we missed by a mile how much it would cost to rebuild Iraq.” Really? I couldn’t tell.

Here’s my favorite passage though (emphasis mine):

“I would say [Bush] was deeply concerned about how many lives are being lost, both American and Iraqi, and how much this is costing the American taxpayer,” said Eric Davis, a Rutgers University professor who was among those invited, who urged Bush to launch a New Deal-style economic program in Iraq. “He would like to see progress sooner rather than later.”

Excuse me, a New-Deal style economic program in Iraq? How about we launch that here — in America? For oh, maybe Katrina victims. Or military veterans? Since when are conservatives so desperate and confused that they advocate for progressive programs? When their mistakes start to catch up with their rhetoric and with reality.

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