Bush Out of Touch with Commanders, Own Party Over Troop Levels?

Jim Rutenberg laments the president's stubbornness and lack of "contrition" on Iraq in Tuesday's "War Critics See New Resistance by Bush."

"Immediately after the beating his party took in November, President Bush indicated that he had received the message that voters wanted change, and that he would serve some up fast. He ousted his defense secretary, announced a full-scale review of his war plan and contritely agreed with critics that progress in Iraq was not happening 'well enough, fast enough.'"

Apparently, Bush is to blame for not immediately signing on to the conclusions of the report issued by the Iraq Study Group, even though the group's suggestions have been widely criticized on both the left and right.

"But in the last two weeks, the critics and even some allies say, they have seen a reversal. Mr. Bush has shrugged off suggestions by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group that he enlist the help of Iran and Syria in the effort to stabilize Iraq. Countering suggestions that he begin thinking of bringing troops home, he has engaged in deliberations over whether to send more. And he has adjusted the voters' message away from Iraq, saying on Wednesday, 'I thought the election said they want to see more bipartisan cooperation.'

"In a way, this is the president being the president he has always been - while he still can.

"With Congress out of session, Mr. Bush has sought to reassert his relevance and show yet again that he can chart his own course against all prevailing winds, whether they be unfavorable election returns, a record-low standing in the polls or the public prescriptions of Washington wise men."


"If the president does call for such an increase, he will have a potentially powerful Republican ally in Senator John McCain of Arizona, a leading contender for the 2008 presidential nomination. But other Republicans have warned that they cannot support that step now that several military commanders have expressed reservations about placing more American troops between warring factions in Baghdad. That Mr. Bush would even consider a military plan at variance with the wishes of some of his commanders has added to an increasing sense of his isolation from his own party."

Pay attention to that "some" qualifier - it gets around the inconvenient fact that, as the Times' Christmas
Eve edition reported, "Commander Said to Be Open to More Troops."

That's a reference to the top ground commander in Iraq, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., quoted by Times reporters Michael Gordon and David Sanger as being reconciled to more troops in Iraq: "But General Casey and Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, who has day-to-day command of American forces in Iraq, indicated they were open to a troop increase when Mr. Gates met with them in Baghdad this week."

And while Rutenberg quotes Democratic Sen. Jack Reed, a member of the Armed Services Committee, who is dead-set against any increase in troops, he ignores that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid declaredhimself open to the idea December 17 on ABC's Sunday news program "This Week."

Also, Helene Cooper gets a long story out of the opposition to more troops by Sen. Joe Biden, incoming chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee - yet the Times barely glanced over Reid's declaration on "This Week," dealing with it in the next-to-last paragraph of a larger article headlined "Powell Doubts Need to Raise Troop Levels."