Although Bush has said troop levels would be dictated by the security situation in Iraq and the maturity of Iraqi forces, a move to reduce forces will probably have significant domestic political reverberations as well.Um, yeah, that's one way of putting it. The first two graphs are not too bad, even though they come 11 paragraphs in, but then the third one blows journalistic objectivity out of the water. Why is this an embarrassment for the Democrats? Why isn't it being described as the White House having no Iraq policy distinct from the Democrats? Wasn't this the Democrat's idea in the first place?
The first of the drawdowns would not only come just weeks before November's midterm congressional elections, in which Republicans are facing the prospect of significant losses, due in part to the war's growing unpopularity. But the plan also comes as some Democrats have been pushing the Bush administration to come up with a timetable for withdrawal.
Last week, Congress debated two Democratic proposals that called for Bush to begin a troop drawdown, resolutions that divided the party. Public acknowledgment of the Casey plan by administration officials could leave the Democratic Party's leaders in an even more awkward position, having backed a withdrawal plan already embraced by the White House — in effect leaving the party with no Iraq policy distinct from the administration's as the parties head into the midterm elections.
Greg Sargent saw the same piece and has come to the same conclusion:
It really is mind-boggling. The last week of blogging and commenting was all about how the Democrats are demanding a realistic plan to bring Bush's War to a conclusion, while the White Hosue and Congressional Republicans kicked and screamed and squalled about how they weren't going to do it. Now, there is a plan on the table for troop drawdowns and the the Democratic leadership on this issue is ignored.
Just try to wrap your brain around that logic for a second. Dems, led by Jack Murtha, have been beating the drums and demanding that the head-in-the-sand White House make some sort of move towards troop withdrawals. In response, the GOP has adamantly refused, smearing anyone even whispering such things as a weak, vaccillating Jane Fonda defeatist. Buoyed by the Zarqawi killing, the media relentlessly tried to portray this smidgen of good news in Iraq -- and the GOP strategy of demonizing Dems as cowards -- as political winners for Republicans. But Americans refused to think the way the commentators told them to. Polls continued to show no real uptick in approval for Bush or for his handling of Iraq, and that sizeable blocs of the public want to see some sort of phased withdrawal.
So now word is being leaked that the top commander in Iraq is "projecting" just what Dems pushed for and just what the GOP derided relentlessly as embracing "retreat" and "surrender." So how does the media react? By refusing to even acknowledge the political context of this at all.
And now the LA Times casts the fact that the Republicans are being forced by pressure from the Dems to start down the road toward troop reductions as something that will be bad for...Democrats! What is it going to take to get the media to stop spinning everything -- even a situation where Republicans are being forced to follow where the Dems led -- as good for the GOP?
And the kicker in all of it? There's no commitment to the plan:
Army Gen. George W. Casey presented his plan to Pentagon leaders and President Bush in confidential briefings during a visit to Washington last week, an administration official said. Other officials emphasized that no final decision had been taken on troop levels, but said that the outline would probably serve as the basis for future planning.Serving as a basis for future planning. Gee, sounds real definite to me. In short, this "plan" has all the hallmarks of an election season strategy, to be abandonded the day after the elections in Novemeber. Oh, and it also manages to squeeze in this:
Casey's two-year drawdown plan includes the continued hand-over of military bases in Iraq, which would reduce the 69 facilities held by U.S. forces to 11 by the end of 2007. U.S. commanders have gradually been consolidating American forces in large "super bases" in Iraq's most restive areas, including Al Anbar province in the west, near Mosul in the north, and in Baghdad.Permanent bases. We're not leaving, folks. More of the same. More of the same White House opportunism. More of the same kiss-ass reporting and Democrat bashing. More of the same bait-and-switch lies from the White House.