A Karl Rove Solution for Iraq?

By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Tuesday, July 10, 2007; 12:34 PM

To the extent that Karl Rove still has a reputation as a political genius, he owes it to his signature move: Faced with potential political disaster, Rove never plays defense, he doesn't change course, he attacks the problem head on -- and tries to co-opt the opposition's position.

So it should come as no great surprise that, confronted with a tide of anti-war sentiment and a growing number of defecting Republican lawmakers, the White House is changing not its policy on Iraq, but its message.

Enter the new White House talking point: You want out? We want out, too!

It's a message that has the potential to deflate the growing public frenzy against President Bush's Iraq policy, except for one small problem: It's just talk.

The public wants the bulk of U.S. troops out of Iraq in less than a year. End of story. But the Bush policy is that a drawdown will not take place until certain conditions are met. And the evidence is mounting that even with all the extra troops sent to Iraq since January, those conditions are nowhere near being met. In fact, the kind of Iraq the administration envisions seems more unattainable than ever.

Unless Bush revises his goals, puts forth definitive deadlines or timetables to which he can be held accountable, and stops pretending that he can predict the future in Iraq, then this new talk from the White House should be dismissed as just that.

The Coverage

Peter Baker and Karen DeYoung write in The Washington Post: "President Bush, facing a growing Republican revolt against his Iraq policy, has rejected calls to change course but will launch a campaign emphasizing his intent to draw down U.S. forces next year and move toward a more limited mission if security conditions improve, senior officials said yesterday. . . .

"Bush plans to lay out what an aide called 'his vision for the post-surge' starting in Cleveland today to assure the nation that he, too, wants to begin bringing troops home eventually.

"The White House devised the political strategy after days of intense internal discussions about how to respond to several prominent Republican senators who have broken with Bush's war policy recently. Bush decided against heeding their proposal to begin redeploying U.S. troops as early as this summer, but he and his team concluded that he needed to shift his message to show that he shares the goals of his increasingly restless Republican caucus and the broader public."

Baker and DeYoung write that "the president has mapped out a best-case scenario for Iraq on Jan. 20, 2009, that would still see considerable numbers of U.S. troops on the ground, but in a different role. If events work out as Bush hopes, aides said, U.S. forces by then will have sharply reduced their mission, pulling out of sectarian combat and focusing instead on fighting al-Qaeda, guarding Iraq's borders and supporting Iraqi troops."

But counting on Bush's hopes for Iraq has been a fool's game thus far. And Baker and DeYoung write that "key Republican senators have indicated that they would not be satisfied with a change in political spin over a real change in strategy."

Panic Mode

Other reports describe a White House in a bit of tizzy.

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