Wait ’till next year?

The White House was cool to the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, but at the time they were the only concrete proposals on the table for solving the seemingly intractable violence in Iraq.

Perhaps to get the public to hold off its embrace of the ISG report, the White House announced a day later that President Bush would make a major address before Christmas outlining a new Iraq strategy.

This week the White House announced that the address would be delayed until January with still no specific date set. The president, said his press secretary Tony Snow, simply wasn’t ready yet. And the delay would give new Defense Secretary Robert Gates time to settle in at the Pentagon.

In the meantime, Bush has been huddling with his national security advisers, meeting with Iraqi leaders, videoconferencing with his commanders in Iraq and demanding more information on competing options.

The war in Iraq is almost 4 years old, and it’s hard to think what Bush could do now that he couldn’t have done then. It’s not as if the sectarian fighting broke out yesterday. By waiting, Bush raises public expectations for something dramatic; incremental policy shifts are not going to fly.

Meanwhile, public confidence in the president is eroding. A new Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 70 percent of those interviewed disapproved of his handling of the war, and 52 percent believe we’re losing.

The delay and confusion in the president’s efforts to devise and announce a new strategy do not inspire a great deal of confidence.