The Gentleman Is Not For Turning

Various reports in the MSM the past 48 hours have had Bush wobbling. I don't think so, if his speech today is any indication. The MSM may hope so; some White House staffers may hope so; key Senate Republicans seem to hope so (although heaven only knows why; do they really think the Republican party can escape being held responsible for whatever's happening in Iraq by pulling out now?). But Bush ain't wavering:

I was very optimistic at the end of '05 when 12 million Iraqis went to the polls. I know it seems like a decade ago. It wasn't all that long ago that, when given a chance, 12 million people voted [snip] I was pleased that 12 million defied the car bombers and killers to vote. Our policy at that point in time was to get our force posture in such a position, is that we would train the Iraqis so they would take the fight to those who would stop the advance of democracy, and that we'd be in a position to keep the territorial integrity in place, and chase down the extremists. That was our policy.

We didn't get there in 2006 because a thinking enemy -- in this case, we believe al Qaeda, the same people that attacked us in America -- incited serious sectarian violence by blowing up a holy religious site of the Shia. And then there was this wave of reprisal.

To digress for just a moment, the idea seems to be hardening that Rummy was wrong all along and war can't be fought on the cheap (man-wise). I admit events have more or less persuaded me of that know, because things have turned around so swiftly with the surge --even before the surge was in place. However, lest we forget, things were basically going our way until the bombing of the Golden Mosque. Our buddy Zarqawi got the last laugh on us with that posthumous action. So Rummy and Abizaid may have been right up until that point...and then we had a new ballgame, with a new strategy required. We'll decide that later, of course, but I'm throwing that out before everyone's opinion is set in stone. Anyway, back to Bush:

I had a decision to make. Some of Steve's colleagues -- good, decent, patriotic people -- believed the best thing for the United States to do at that point was to step back and to kind of let the violence burn out in the capital of Iraq. I thought long and hard about that. I was deeply concerned that violence in the capital would spill out into the countryside. I was deeply concerned that one of the objectives of al Qaeda -- and by the way, al Qaeda is doing most of the spectacular bombings, trying to incite sectarian violence. The same people that attacked us on September the 11th is the crowd that is now bombing people, killing innocent men, women and children, many of whom are Muslims, trying to stop the advance of a system based upon liberty.

And I was concerned that the chaos would more enable them to -- more likely enable them to achieve their stated objective, which is to drive us out of Iraq so they could have a safe haven from which to launch their ideological campaign and launch attacks against America. That's what they have said. The killers who came to America have said, with clarity, we want you out of Iraq so we can have a safe haven from which to attack again.
I think it's important for the Commander-in-Chief to listen carefully to what the enemy says. They thrive on chaos. They like the turmoil. It enables them to more likely achieve their objectives. What they can't stand is the advance of an alternative ideology that will end up marginalizing them.

So I looked at consequences of stepping back -- the consequences not only for Iraq, but the consequences for an important neighborhood for the security of the United States of America. What would the Iranians think about America if we stepped back in the face of this extremist challenge? What would other extremists think? What would al Qaeda be able to do? They'd be able to recruit better and raise more money from which to launch their objectives. Failure in Iraq would have serious consequences for the security of your children and your grandchildren.

And so I made the decision, rather than pulling out of the capital, to send more troops in the capital, all aimed at providing security, so that an alternative system could grow. I listened to the commanders that would be running the operation -- in this case, the main man is a man named General David Petraeus -- a smart, capable man, who gives me his candid advice. His advice, Mr. President, is we must change the mission to provide security for the people in the capital city of Iraq, as well as in Anbar Province, in order for the progress that the 12 million people who voted can be made. That's why we've done what we've done.

People are always speculating about why Bush does what he does and he flat out tells us all the time. From September 21, 2001 until today he has been utterly transparent.
we just started. He got all the troops there a couple of weeks ago. He asked for 20,000-some troops, and I said, if that's what you need, Commander, that's what you got. And they just showed up. And they're now beginning operations in full. And in Washington, you got people saying, stop. And here's my attitude about this -- and I understand there's a debate, and there ought to be a debate in our democracy, and I welcome it. I welcome a good, honest debate about the consequences of failure, the consequences of success in this war. But I believe that it's in this nation's interest to give the commander a chance to fully implement his operations. And I believe Congress ought to wait for General Petraeus to come back and give his assessment of the strategy that he's putting in place before they make any decisions. That's what the American people expect.
They expect for military people to come back and tell us how the military operations are going.
And that's the way I'm going to play it, as the Commander-in-Chief.
He does talk about where he'd like to be --where he thought we would be by now:
I'll be glad to discuss different options -- the truth of the matter is, I felt like we could be in a different position at the end of 2005. I believe we can be in a different position in a while, and that would be to have enough troops there to guard the territorial integrity of that country, enough troops there to make sure that al Qaeda doesn't gain safe haven from which to be able to launch further attacks against the United States of America, enough troops to be embedded and to help train the Iraqis to do their job.
But we couldn't get there without additional troops. And now I call upon the United States Congress to give General David Petraeus a chance to come back and tell us whether his strategy is working. And then we can work together on a way forward.
If you've read this far, you may be interested as well in Bush's speech on Independence Day.

One last thing. All over the right-wing blogosphere there's talk of Bush fatigue. It's normal. Despising our President is the American way. War-time presidents are especially un-popular (heck, even the 1944 re-election of Roosevelt was much closer than anyone would have dreamed) and everyone is ready for a change after 8 years. But even if the phenomenon is normal, most of what I read about Bush these days sickens me.

We live in a time of crisis and during that time, on the two issues that matter most --liberty and the defense of life-- Bush could not have a better record. No attacks on our soil since 9/11; more than 60 million people freed from two horrendous regimes; 150 or more absolutely fantastic appointments to the bench; completely solid on stem cells. Let's see anyone running in either party now try those tricks at home. Not one of them is as good.

As icing on the cake he gave us tax cuts that saw an economy that should by all rights have sunk into a post-September 11 depression through to incredible and steady growth and jobs creation. He has done more good for the impoverished and AIDS-infected in Africa than anyone on the planet. He has pushed hard, if not successfully, for market-based reforms of Social Security & Health Care (even today in Cleveland he was pushing Health Savings Accounts). And his recent commutation of Scooter Libby's sentence showed Solomonic respect for both justice and friendship, not political pandering.

The boy's done good, and he's done it all with candor, courage, manliness and a steady hand, and usually without the slightest bit of respect being shown him, ever, by anyone, except perhaps Tony Blair & John Howard. It takes only the slightest hint from an "unnamed source" in the Administration for the entire Right wing to rush out, forgetting all the good he has done us, assume the worst of him and denounce him as a twit and a traitor before we've even heard what he's going to say --which usually has turned out to be the right thing. Beginning with Summer, 2001, when "sources" revealed Bush would call for federal funding of embryonic stem cell research, and when he didn't, half the pro-life groups denounced him anyway, because their pre-written press releases were based on the "sources" and not on Bush.

It's been a hard 8 years, but a good 8 years --years which it doesn't take much imagination to realize could have been much, much worse without George W. Bush. Hate his position on immigration all you like, but for those who supported the war not to stand with the President now, when every force in the world is trying to get him to cave on Iraq, is flat-out dishonorable.