December 19, 2005


Last night, after Bush's speech, Wolf Blitzer on his CNN show, The Situation Room (the set looks like something out of the bad sci-fi flick Aeon Flux), posed the question about getting out of Iraq, not as it has been posed by people like John Murtha, but as a question of whether "immediate withdrawal" is a good thing or not. As introduction to an interview with Colin Powell, former Secretary of State, Blitzer says this: "Coming up, Colin Powell's speaking out. We'll find out why he believes a call for immediate withdrawal from Iraq -- those calls would result in a tragic mistake. Stay with us."

In this one sentence, Blitzer essentially endorses Bush's strategy of "stay the course." Let's not even discuss the merits of setting a timeline for withdrawal. First, let's set up this straw man issue of immediate withdrawal and bring in Colin Powell to knock that down.

It is a phony issue. There are very few people advocating immediate withdrawal. Most responsible critics of Bush's Iraq war are proposing a phased withdrawal with a set timeline to do so. There is a very cogent argument being made by liberals and even some conservatives that by setting a timeline for withdrawal, the Iraqi government, police, military and people will realize the fact that they must take over sole responsibility for their governance and security, and given them the urgency to do so.

But Blitzer poses this question as if immediate withdrawal is what is being suggested. It is not.

What I believe may really be at issue here is whether the American military actually believes that the Iraqis can ever take over those responsibilities. Whether we do it now, or one year from now, or ten years from now, can it ever happen? Will instability rule Iraq for decades to come? Perhaps that is what they fear, and if we get out at any time, failure of our mission will result. The Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld legacy in Iraq will go down the tubes. And this is what worries them most.

And despite the Bush administration's own plan to reduce troop strength (which the Republicans never talk about because it essentially looks like what John Murtha has suggested), generals in the Pentagon wonder how it can be done. This exchange from last night between Blitzer and Barbara Starr, CNN's Pentagon correspondent, is revealing:

BLITZER: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, when are we going to get the formal announcements of this 20,000 troop reduction from about 158,000 down to 138,000 now that the elections have come and gone?

STARR: Well, Wolf, General George Casey said last week that he is working on an assessment now, and expects to make the recommendation to the president about the 20,000 troops within the next several days.

All indications are by the end of the year, by the new year. The military will have made the recommendation to the president. Whether he announces it at that time still remains to be seen because of this very critical calculation. What will the insurgency look like? What will the Sunni Ba'athists do in the days after the election now? Will violence take an upturn?

How do you announce a reduction in U.S. troops if there are still more and more attacks coming?
[emphasis added]

BLITZER: All right, Barbara, stand by for a moment.

Great questions brought up by Starr, but never answered. They just hang out there, unrecognized and unacknowledged by Blitzer or any of his other guests.

And then we have this incisive report from CNN's Jacki Schechner:

Blitzer: The president's speech is already generating lots of buzz online. Let's go to our Internet reporter Jacki Schechner. She's watching the situation there. What are you picking up already, Jackie?

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, this is what's so cool about the blogs. You want to know how a speech like this resonates with the general public? All you got to do is go online to look for comments.And I'll tell you what I'm seeing early from the right is this was an excellent, excellent speech.

From The National Reviews blog, the Corner, K.J. Lopez pointing out that it was a strong solid address. Captain's Quarters blog, another big conservative blog, smart, presidential. Over at, they opened up their comments sections and let people weigh in. People were saying this is the speech we should have been hearing all along. It would have put President Bush in a better light.

Now on the left, a lot of them read the speech, why bother to watch it. I tell you, Think Progress got an early copy, posted it. Other big liberal blogs were linking to it. I don't even know that a lot of them even watched the speech. They were not impressed. Think Progress pointing out there was no mention of a timeline. That's what they're looking for.

As for reaction from politicians, a lot of them posting online as well. Senator Frist saying this was a strong presidential speech. And Senator Feingold again pointing out no timeline.

So Bush - Wolf, I'm sorry, immediate reaction online to President Bush's speech.

There is also a silly conversation between Democratic New York Representative "Charlie" Rangle and Republican New York Representative"Pete" King about the Presidential wiretapping, as predictable as you can imagine.

Surprisingly, the only good question Blitzer asked during the course of the evening, was sucked up into the ether and never addressed by anyone:

BLITZER: ....the argument is that the president could have done this by simply going to that -- what's called that "Phizer Court," the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance act court. There's a judge there who sits in super-secret session over at the Justice Department. And also on a routine basis, rubber stamps these requests for wire taps, for surveillance. So what was the problem with simply doing that and then you have the cover of a court order?

It is an obvious question that no one, to my knowledge, has answered. If what the president wanted to do was within the legal limits of the Foreign Intelligence Survelliance Act, he would have received a judge's approval. In fact, I believe Bush and his lawyers were afraid that they would not have received them in many of these instances. And despite what Rep. King says is a long list of people who have stated that the President has an "inherent constitutional right" to engage in domestic spying, this is only one small step away from the claim of the divine right of kings.

Perhaps the most astounding comment made during the course of this hour-long drama news series, was when Pete King said, in responding to a question about domestic spying:

Well, first of all, Wolf, if he had done this back in 1998, 1999 and 2000, we probably wouldn't have had the attacks of September 11.

The implication, of course, is that had Bill Clinton aurthorized illegal domestic spying during his administration, we would not have been attacked. Not a peep from Blitzer or Rangel in response to this outrageously indefensible claim.

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