The Weimar President

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His speech yesterday actually managed to shock. You might think that, in wartime, a president would acknowledge what no one denies is a terribly grim decision in front of us - whether to pursue a clearly unwinnable war in order to govern a clearly ungovernable country - or withdraw and redeploy in ways that will doubtless lead to even more bloodshed. But no. There is no gray here; no awful decision for the least worst option; not acknowledgment of his own moral culpability for such a disaster. There is instead an accusation that those who reach a different judgment about the course of the war are, in fact, enemies of the troops:

Our troops are seeing this progress that is being made on the ground. And as they take the initiative from the enemy, they have a question: Will their elected leaders in Washington pull the rug out from under them just as they're gaining momentum and changing the dynamic on the ground in Iraq? Here's my answer is clear: We'll support our troops, we'll support our commanders, and we will give them everything they need to succeed.

To place all the troops into the position of favoring one strategy ahead of us rather than another, and to accuse political opponents of trying to "pull the rug out from under them," is a, yes, fascistic tactic designed to corral political debate into only one possible patriotic course. It's beneath a president to adopt this role, beneath him to coopt the armed services for partisan purposes. It should be possible for a president to make an impassioned case for continuing his own policy in Iraq, without accusing his critics of wanting to attack and betray the troops. But that would require class and confidence. The president has neither.

(Photo: Paul J Richards/AFP/Getty.)

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