Defense reporter Philip Shenon accompanied Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on her surprise trip to Baghdad and filed Friday's downer: "Rice, in Baghdad, Insists That Iraqis Are 'Making Progress.'"
As if the truth about Iraq wasn't enough, Shenon made Rice's appearance a metaphor for everything that's gone wrong in Iraq over the last three years.
"Wearing a helmet and a flak jacket and flanked by machine-gun-toting bodyguards to defend against insurgents, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice came here Thursday, insisting that there were new signs of progress in Iraq and that the Bush administration had never sugarcoated its news about the American occupation."
"Ms. Rice met twice with Mr. Maliki on Thursday and praised him for his 'excellent leadership of Iraq.'
"Yet signs of progress were not much in evidence in the first hours of her visit.
"It began inauspiciously when the military transport plane that brought her to Baghdad was forced to circle the city for about 40 minutes because of what a State Department spokesman later said was either mortar fire or rockets at the airport.
"On Thursday evening, during her meeting with President Jalal Talabani, the lights went out, forcing Ms. Rice to continue the discussion in the dark. It was a reminder of the city's erratic - and sometimes nonexistent - electrical service.
"While trying to put a brave face on the situation here, Ms. Rice defended the administration from accusations at home that President Bush and his closest advisers - Ms. Rice has been singled out among them - have not been truthful about Iraq.
"The criticism has grown sharper since the disclosure of details last week from a new book by the reporter Bob Woodward of The Washington Post, who has been granted extraordinary access to President Bush's inner circle in the past, that depicts the administration as dysfunctional and deceitful about the American invasion and occupation of Iraq.
"In the book, 'State of Denial,' Ms. Rice is described as having ignored warnings about a possible terrorist attack before Sept. 11, 2001, when she was the national security adviser, and as having discouraged debate about national security issues. Ms. Rice and the White House have disputed many of the book's assertions."