Stephen Hadley on This Week with George Stephanopoulos This Week with George Stephanopoulos, 14-Jan-07

Fog of war

Perfectly unclear

The Bush administration is running their fog machine on Max when it comes to the "new way forward" in Iraq. National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley hit the Sunday morning talk shows to do his bit in the selling of W's new strategy, aka stay the course. Frankly, watching him made me want to throw up.

To their credit, both George Stephanopoulos and Tim Russert asked very pointed, clarifying questions. Hadley, on his part, did his level best to avoid answering them while appearing to do so.

Bush has a strategy all right, but it's not for "victory in Iraq" or even the current, milder "success in Iraq." His strategy is for winning the blame game. W just can't stand the idea that he has failed miserably, so he is setting up others to take the blame.

• On the one hand, the Iraqis are being set up by all this talk of "stepping up" and "living on borrowed time" (Condi) lays the groundwork for a classic case of blaming the victim. When the debacle worsens, W can be blameless: the Iraqis didn't step up.

• On the other hand, W is determined to make it impossible for Congress to stop him. The only real power Congress has is the power of the purse, and W has made sure he has enough money to send more troops to Iraq, knowing full well that once they are there, Congress will not be morally, ethically, or politically able to stop him at that point by cutting off funding. No one, especially Democrats, will want to leave themselves vulnerable to a charge that they denied our brave men and women everything they need to fight the war on terror.

Hadley on Meet the Press

Lest there be any doubt of this, listen to Hadley's own words:

MR. RUSSERT: If Congress decides to cut off funds for the new troops being deployed to Iraq, will the president accept that decision by Congress and abide by it?

MR. HADLEY: Tim, we’re not there yet. We have funds in the ‘07 appropriations bill to deploy these troops. I think once they get in harm’s way, Congress’ tradition is to support those troops. I say we’re not there yet because we’re beginning a process to work through this issue. I think members of Congress want us to succeed, they don’t want to fail. They understand that means Iraqis are going to have to step up, and I think when they work through it, they will understand that the only way the Iraqis can step up and succeed is if we provide the reinforcements the president has talked about. And we think, at the end of the day, they will—they will come to the same conclusion the president did, that this is the only path to success.

That's what you call cynical playing politics — except this time it's truly a matter of life and death.

Russert was unflinching in putting questions to Hadley:

MR. RUSSERT: Senator Bill Nelson of Florida, at the hearing, said he supported the war, he had supported the administration, but that he has not been told the truth, and he can no longer support President Bush and the war in Iraq. And people watching that, listening to someone like Senator Nelson, began to put forward the following, that if you were wrong about weapons of mass destruction, you were wrong about the troop levels necessary, you were wrong about the costs of the war, you were wrong about oil revenues paying for reconstruction, you were wrong about being greeted as liberators, you were wrong about the level of sectarian violence, why should the American people trust you now and think you’re right about a surge?
Bush at Ft Benning

It's just too bad that Bush himself doesn't have to face up to questioning like that. Instead W sends out his praetorian guard to defend his policies while he himself makes speeches in front of hand-picked, safe audiences, like the soldiers at Ft Benning where he went to talk up his plans. It would do our democracy good to have some form of question hour like the British, where the prime minister has to go to parliament and answer questions put to him by members. It would certainly take the imperial presidency down a peg or two.

The editorial cartoonists have been having a field day. Check out the slideshow.