Does Bush Mean It?
Wednesday, December 6, 2006; 12:32 PM
President Bush this morning formally accepted a copy of the Iraq Study Group's blistering report, vowed to seriously consider its dramatic recommendations and spoke hopefully about finding common ground for the good of the country.
Sounds great. But does he mean it?
We'll know for sure once words turn into action. But in the meantime, it strikes me that as long as Vice President Cheney and political guru Karl Rove remain Bush's closest advisers, then the answer is probably not.
Cheney and his loyalists are largely responsible for the deception, delusion and incompetence that brought us to where we are today in Iraq. Rove intentionally turned the war into the most ferocious and divisive of partisan issues. Neither man has shown any sign of remorse.
Since his electoral comeuppance on Nov. 7, Bush has alternated between conciliatory language and fighting words when it comes to changing course in Iraq.
The nomination of Bob Gates to replace Donald Rumsfeld as defense secretary was one indication that Bush might indeed adopt a more measured and realistic strategy in Iraq. Gates's stunning candor about the current situation at confirmation hearings yesterday bolstered that view.
But until or unless Bush turns away from Cheney and Rove -- the two men who have been his most intimate and trusted counselors -- it's hard to imagine that his episodes of chastened, bipartisan talk on Iraq will amount to anything more than lip service.
While stopping short of recommending an immediate pullout from Iraq, the bipartisan commission report nevertheless recommends a dramatic reversal of Bush's Iraq policies.
The report, for instance, urges Bush to abandon his open-ended commitment to keep large numbers of troops in Iraq. It contains a de facto timetable for withdrawal, and recommends precisely the kinds of quantitative, measurable benchmarks that the Bush team has assiduously avoided in the past.
And it calls for a return to diplomacy, which means talking to people who don't agree with you.
Here are some key excerpts from the Associated Press. Among them: