He's arguing he didn't decide to go to war; Saddam did. He's saying he agrees with his Republican critics. He's blaming the generals for all the combat decisions that have made this war a failure. His blaming Tommy Franks specifically for the troop levels was particularly piquant. So he gave him a Medal of Freedom anyway? Worse, the president conflated every single radical element in the Middle East into one amorphous anti-American entity. It appears that he sees Shiite militias, Hezbollah, al Qaeda, Hamas and the Sunni insurgents as indistinguishable. He has even said baldly that the people bombing and murdering in Iraq are the same people who attacked us on 9/11. The Shiite militias? The Baathist dead-enders? Is he serious? He seems to be still operating under the premise that the fundamental dynamic is one between democracy and radicalism. At some very broad and general level, that's not wrong. But in terms of forming policy, it's close to useless. Actually, it's worse than useless. We have a president who seems unable to understand the critical dynamics of the war he is allegedly waging. Is he capable of understanding the complexity? Does he really think we need another lecture on the evil of al Qaeda? Does he really think that's what we're arguing about at this point?

Here's the bottom line for me:

"I don't think Congress should be running the war; it should be funding the troops."

The inverse, of course, is that Congress can also defund the troops. But apparently that's not an option. Bush's position is that Congress can make one decision - to go to war - and then their role is to pay for it indefinitely, regardless. He'll listen, but he won't hear. He's the decider.

I don't know whether this performance is going to persuade anyone. It seems to me that the report only offers one real sign of success: that the Iraqi government came up with its pledged troops for Baghdad. That's it. It also seems to me, alas, that when the president speaks spontaneously about the war, he reveals vast amounts of ignorance, denial and deception, self and otherwise. The patronizing soundbites stick in the craw at this point. His formulation that we do not know whether the war can succeed but that it nonetheless must succeed is about as disorienting a leadership call as I have heard. The rank condescension toward the American people is also staggering. Look, Mr President, most Americans aren't as dim as you seem to be. Maybe it's time you realized that.

He's just out of his depth, I'm afraid. And others are sinking - and dying - as a consequence.

(Photo: Tim Sloan/Getty.)