Iraq Study Group Report: Political Ramifications
No question that the Baker/Hamilton smack down of Bush and Co. is bad news for the Bush administration and Republicans in general. It repudiates almost all of the apparent spin from the White House about Iraq. It turns out that Iraq is in a civil war, we are losing the war, and that we do need to leave very soon. Between the elections and now this, the WH and GOP have received a double "thumpin'". But the Bush White House is in full-on lame duck mode, so there reaction - especially one so typical - is inconsequential. The real suspense is in how the real political players will handle this.
The Democrats have already pounced on Pres. Bush and the GOP with swift calls for "increased oversight"and plans for Senate hearings that, they believe, would force the White House to follow the ISG plan to the letter. They'll look at strategy and troop levels and all the stuff they love to pry open. This is what voters wanted when they swept them into DC power.
But vicious hearings that try to lay blame will get them nowhere. It's obvious that the bipartisanship shtick from both sides has been played out. The Republicans are back to calling Dems "obstructionists" while the Dems are simply out for GOP blood. And rumors are flying that not only will the Iraq hearings include uncovering suspected dirt on Halliburton and Cheney, but that the dreaded "I" word - impeachment - will crop up once more. Speaker Pelosi is feeling the heat from some hard-core liberals to back off on her "no impeachment" pledge and hammer W in the wake of his rebuke from the ISG. Will she cave? Hard to tell. But even appearing to try any rash and partisan moves will result in a severe backlash against the Dems, possibly hurting the chances of any top Dems involved in the proceedings (Hillary, Obama, Biden). The Dems have been handed yet another gift this year - a full-fledged swat against the backside of Pres. Bush by a respected bipartisan panel. They can't blow it by losing their heads in a left-wing lust for GOP heads to roll.
And there is one 2008 presidential candidate that got punched in the gut in the aftermath of the report: John McCain. His much publicized call for 40,000 more US troops to be sent to Iraq has been swatted down by the ISG, essentially making JMac a man with no plan for Iraq. However, he won't go down without a fight. Here he is bashing the ISG report:
``I do not agree that you can take the trainers that are necessary, much less the troops that are necessary, from the existing forces there,'' McCain said after a meeting at the White House. ``There is only one thing worse than an overstressed military, and that's a defeated military.''
``You have to understand that the Iranians and the Syrians do not have common interests with us.'' And the report's conclusion that peace between Israelis and Palestinians is integral to success in Iraq ``seems tenuous at best,'' he said in a statement later.