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The Analogy Quagmire

All this reportage about Bush distancing himself from Maliki came despite the fact that, as The Post's Fletcher wrote in a pool report, White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe stopped by the press cabin on Air Force One yesterday afternoon "to emphasize that Bush's comments earlier in [Canada] were not to be taken as backing away from the iraqi pm."

This morning, Gerstenzang of the Los Angeles Times wrote to his colleagues that Johndroe complained about the coverage, saying "that despite WH efforts to make that support clear on Tuesday, 'that did not come through.'

"What was misreported? 'Bush backs away from Maliki; Bush is cool toward Maliki,' Johndroe said.

"Does Bush still feel Maliki is 'the right guy?' 'Yes,' Johndroe said, adding that Maliki is the PM, chosen by Iraqis. 'That makes him the person we will deal with.'"

And in this morning's speech, Bush called Maliki "a good guy -- good man with a difficult job," and said "I support him."

Bottoms Up?

From Bush's remarks in Canada yesterday: "There are two types of political reconciliation that can take place in a new democracy: One is from the top down, and one is from the bottom up. Clearly, the Iraqi government has got to do more through its parliament to help heal the wounds of years -- having lived years under a tyrant. . . .

"There's bottom-up reconciliation taking place. It's noticeable and tangible and real, where people at the grass-roots level are sick and tired of the violence, sick and tired of the radicalism, and they want -- and they want a better life. And they're beginning to reject the extremists that have the desire to have a safe haven, for example, from which to launch further attacks on America. In other words, there's a process taking place. And the fundamental question is, will the government respond to the demands of the people? And if the government doesn't demand -- respond to the demands of the people, they will replace the government. That's up to the Iraqis to make that decision, not American politicians."

Someone, by the way, should ask the White House for some "noticeable and tangible and real" examples of "bottom-up reconciliation."

Maliki's View

Qassim Abdul-Zahra writes for the Associated Press: "Iraq's prime minister lashed out Wednesday at U.S. criticism, saying no one has the right to impose timetables on his elected government and that his country 'can find friends elsewhere.'

"Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki blamed the U.S. presidential campaign for the recent tough words about his government, from President Bush and from other U.S. politicians."

Reality Check

Tina Susman and James Gerstenzang write in the Los Angeles Times: "Despite the addition since February of 28,500 U.S. troops, mainly in Baghdad, and what [Ambassador Ryan] Crocker said was an overall decline in sectarian violence, the Shiite-led government has done little either on the legislative or social level to bring the Shiite majority and Sunni Arab minority together. None of the laws that the White House considers key to ending sectarian violence has been enacted. Basic services such as water and electricity are spotty at best. The country's educated middle class is fleeing or being killed off.

"Since April, Maliki's government has been beset by walkouts and boycotts by various political blocs, some of which accuse his administration of being driven by sectarian interests. The most crippling walkout has involved Sunni lawmakers, whose absence means that one of Iraq's major population groups is unrepresented.

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