Why Bush Thinks We're Winning

By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Thursday, October 26, 2006; 12:50 PM

One of the more reality-defying aspects of President Bush's position on the war in Iraq is his insistence that we're winning.

That was a central theme at yesterday's press conference. Here's the transcript .

"Absolutely, we're winning," Bush said. "As a matter of fact, my view is the only way we lose in Iraq is if we leave before the job is done."

With the body counts soaring, the country descending deeper into civil war and the central government consistently unable to assert itself, how can he call this winning?

The answer: It's becoming increasingly clear that Bush sees the war in Iraq in very simple terms. As he himself said, he believes that the only way to lose is to leave. Therefore anything else is winning -- anything else at all.

Even if no progress is being made -- even if things are getting worse, rather than better -- simply staying is winning.

So we're winning.

Bush expanded on this principle in a fascinating, one-hour Oval Office interview yesterday afternoon with a half-dozen conservative journalists.

One of the attendees was Michael Barone of U.S. News, and usnews.com last night Web-published the transcript as well as the audio . The National Review, whose Byron York attended, published the transcript this morning.

Even though the session was mostly on the record, Bush seemed looser than he usually does in interviews. The result was a slew of disjointed, sometimes not particularly intelligible, but sometimes deeply telling insights into his thinking about the war. It's a heckuva read.

For example, Bush said he owes his conviction that leaving equals losing to Gen. John P. Abizaid, the Central Command chief who oversees military operations in the Middle East.

And regardless of his recent public attempts at semantic backtracking, Bush made it clear to this group of supporters that "stay the course" remains his strategy.


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