W's Hail Mary Pass UPDATED
I forced myself to watch a contemptible little man's last-ditch effort to salvage his legacy last night. He opened by declaring that "[t]he new strategy I outline tonight will change America's course in Iraq, and help us succeed in the fight against terror." Nothing thereafter seemed to fit that description. He's going to send 21,500 more Americans into harm's way, but this escalation amounts to a mere variation of existing tactics rather than a new strategy. I'm not seeing any change of course in it, and it doesn't seem the least bit likely to lead to "success" against terror.
Things are not shaping up well for public acceptance of Bush's plan:
* Some prominent GOP voices are already rejecting the plan. Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) said, "This is a dangerously wrong-headed strategy that will drive America deeper into an unwinnable swamp at a great cost. We should be focused on helping the Iraqis find a political solution and creating a policy that allows us to leave Iraq honorably, has the sustained support of the American people and does not further destabilize the Middle East." Presidential hopeful Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) denounced it in advance, as did Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN) and Max Baucus (R-MT).Reaction to Bush's "New Way Forward" is going to make the reception of the Iraq Study Group report seem like a standing ovation.
* Aides to Iraqi leader al-Maliki have said that they don't want more troops. For example, parliament member and Maliki associate Haidar al-Abadi said yesterday, “The government believes there is no need for extra troops from the American side. The existing troops can do the job.”
* A coalition of labor and anti-war organizations are moving ahead with a multimillion-dollar advertising and grass-roots campaign against the escalation.
* A new AP-Ipsos poll found approval for Bush's handling of Iraq at a record low 29% approval and 68 percent disapproval.
GOP presidential hopefuls Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA), and former Mayor Rudy Guiliani (R-NY) have all spoken in favor of the escalation. Despite notable dissenters, a majority of GOP members of Congress appear to be cautiously supportive. There will be political consequences for their support, but whether the White House has just been handed to the Democratic Party remains to be seen.
UPDATE: Wow, this analysis by Prof. Juan Cole is fantastic:
To listen to Bush's speech on Wednesday, you would imagine that al-Qaeda has occupied large swathes of Iraq with the help of Syria and Iran and is brandishing missiles at the US mainland. That the president of the United States can come out after nearly four years of such lies and try to put this fantasy over on the American people is shameful.Read the whole thing.