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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

The Incredible Iraq Pushback

This week’s frantic administration pushback against congressional efforts to rein in Bush on Iraq has certainly had its weird features.For one thing, whose brilliant idea was it to once again deploy Dick Cheney to make the case for the administration? Harry Reid nicely captured the question with this obsevation after Cheney went after him very personally: “I’m not going to get into a name-calling match with somebody who has a 9 percent approval rating.”Indeed.Now I can understand why the White House doesn’t want to rely for its defense on one of those congressional bitter-enders like Sam Johnson, whose argument for staying perpetually in Iraq rests on his own belief that the U.S. should have stayed perpetually in Vietnam during the 1970s. But Cheney’s threadbare Iraq-Is-The-War-On-Terror number isn’t a lot more convincing. So it appears the administration is once again simply trying to bump up support from the GOP’s conservative base, where Cheney, while not wildly popular, is at least not viewed as an ogre.That interpretation, however, is at odds with a startling new line of “reasoning” adopted by Bush himself this week (via Greg Sargent at TPMCafe) in a press availability:

Last November the American people said they were frustrated and wanted change in our strategy in Iraq. I listened. Today General David Petraeus is carrying out a strategy that is dramatically different from our previous course. But the American people did not vote for failure, and that is precisely what the Democratic leadership’s bill would guarantee.

Up until now, Bush’s line has been that he and he alone is in charge of Iraq policy, and elections and polls be damned, he’s sticking to his guns until the day he’s finally dragged out of the Oval Office. That tack did help with with his “base,” still sullenly angry about the election results. But now Bush claims he did bend to the results, which leaves two possibilities: (1) he’s engaged in a particularly cruel and dark attempt at humor here–you want some change, eh? Okay, I’ll give you change, hahahahaha–or (2) he thinks he can actually convince people that voters in November thought an escalation of the war was as good an option as a de-escalation.None of this adds up to a coherent public relations strategy, which leads me to the strong possibility that the Bushies are just flailing around hoping their attacks on Democrats either stick or produce some over-reaction they can exploit.

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