President Bush had legitimate success in Iraq to announce, but the way he chose to do it spoke volumes about how chastened this White House has become since the heady days of Bush’s first term. The days of showy staged announcements like the triumphal and woefully premature "Mission Accomplished" carrier landing are long gone.
Instead, with little advance notice on a day when his major activities were a speech in West Virginia on energy and a trip to Kennebunkport he came out of the Oval Office to the garden outside and spoke of Iraq for a brief four minutes. And then with a brisk "Thank you very much," he strode back inside. He took no questions.
It’s too bad because he did have progress, which he cautioned is "still reversible," to announce to a nation that seems to have largely tuned him out of the war.
For the past two and a half months, violence has been at its lowest level since the start of the war and commander Gen. David Petraeus told the president the gains show "a degree of durability."
The five Army brigades and three Marine units that made up the surge are out of Iraq. And Bush said he expects it will be possible to make further troop reductions "as conditions permit."
U.S. units arriving in Iraq after Friday will serve 12-month tours instead of the current 15.
Meanwhile, the Iraq army is growing larger and more capable and has launched a major offensive against al-Qaeda in Diyala province with U.S. troops serving in a supporting role. And there have been reports that Al-Qaeda in Iraq’s leadership has begun slipping off to Afghanistan.
The United States was to have concluded by Thursday a long-term status-of-forces agreement with Iraq and while Bush claimed progress on that front, accounts out of Baghdad seemed to contradict him. And in any case the Iraqi parliament is in summer recess.
All in all an encouraging report, but it’s almost offhanded brevity perhaps indicates a realization by the president that this is less and less his war and more and more that of his successor.