President Bush is about to ask Congress for another $50 billion to keep fighting the war in Iraq. He is betting — almost certainly correctly — that the Democrats will give him a rough time over the money, probably try to attach timetables for withdrawal to the bill and ultimately give in and pass it.
It could likely be a replay of this spring when the president won passage of a $123 billion war-fighting bill to fund his “surge.” When the Democratic Congress insisted on attaching a timetable to the bill, Bush successfully vetoed it. As long as the Democrats are unable to muster the two-thirds majority to override his veto, Bush can continue to fight the war his way — but not indefinitely.
In September, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, is to give his much-awaited report on the progress of the war, and both he and Ambassador Ryan Crocker are to testify before the House and Senate.
In trying to build support for the surge, the White House portrayed the Petraeus report as the final word on whether the war in Iraq was worth pursuing, and, if so, how that could be done more successfully than efforts to date.
Lately, the White House has been downplaying the significance of that report. Instead, Bush has been projecting robust optimism about the course of the war to friendly audiences. “There are unmistakable signs that our strategy is achieving the objective we set out. The momentum is now on our side,” he told the American Legion.
Not everybody shares his optimism. His own National Intelligence Estimate found that Iraq’s leaders “remain unable to govern effectively,” and there is a growing chorus in Congress for the ouster of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. And he continues to suffer defections among his own Republicans, the latest being Virginia Sen. John Warner, a senior member of the Armed Services Committee, who called for a symbolic withdrawal of 5,000 troops before Christmas.
Bush has proclaimed turning points before, by one count at least six times going back to June 2004, when the war was just over a year old and he proclaimed the impending appointment of an interim government “a turning point.”
One of these days he might be right, but time is running out.