Too Little, Too Late

I've been remiss in not linking to my latest diavlog with Ross Douthat. One point worth emphasizing is probably this one about the Bush administration's remarkable inability to ever capture the conventional wisdom on Iraq and thereby stabilize his political situation. The starkest example is the case of the Iraq Study Group report, which was released in December and which moderates in both parties and Broder-types were begging to see made the basis of post-midterms Iraq policy. Instead, Bush announced the "surge" and only now is turning back to Baker-Hamilton, months later, tentatively, after support for that position is already slipping away.

I don't really know whether or not I think that's a bad thing, but it's a distinctive feature of Bush's political strategy. Conventional presidential strategy suggests that one should seize opportunities to occupy the middle ground and defang the political opposition. Bush, though, has tended to do the reverse and deliberately magnify policy disagreements with Democrats (lots of pro-war candidates in 2002 got attacked as soft on Saddam anyway) in hopes of winning dramatic politcal confrontations. From the vantage point of 2007, that's obviously worked terribly. But it worked a lot better -- and for a lot longer -- than I think almost anyone would have predicted back in early 2001.