Bush Trying to Create a Parade Out of a Stampede
By Ed Henry
CNN White House correspondent
WASHINGTON (CNN) — When you’re facing a stampede, you try to jump ahead of the mob and call it a parade. That’s what President Bush will be trying to do at a town hall-style meeting Tuesday in Cleveland — putting the best face on Republican defections over Iraq.
Bush is facing increasing questions and demands from within his own party.
As an increasing number of Republican senators break with the president on the war and say they want large numbers of U.S. troops to start coming home, he will essentially say, “I’m for that too!”
Senior officials expect the president to repeat what he’s said before, which is that of course he would like to get to a point where the U.S. can soon start troop withdrawals — but with major caveats. The president contends there first needs to be more progress in Iraq on two fronts, security on the ground and political reconciliation within the Iraqi government.
So this is not really a new policy or strategy, it’s more like a new-and-improved way of framing the same message of patience.
“The whole purpose of the surge is to get us to that place,” White House spokesman Tony Snow said on CNN’s “American Morning” Tuesday about reducing troop levels. “What we’re saying to those now is now that you got what you wanted, which is a ‘new way forward’, give it a chance to work.”
But the problem for the president is that many fellow Republicans are no longer willing to give it a chance to work, with moderate Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine declaring that a troop redeployment should occur by the middle of next year.
“That should occur and send a very important message to the Iraqi government that our time, you know, has evaporated, along with our patience with respect to their failures to implement the political objectives,” Snowe told “American Morning” on Tuesday.
“Our troops are making the military sacrifice and, yet, they’re not willing to make the political compromises,” she said.
In fact, the White House’s own preliminary report on progress within the Iraqi government, due on Capitol Hill by the end of the week, is expected to show Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is not meeting key benchmarks.
That’s likely to be further grist for senior Republicans, like Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, to say the president can no longer wait until September for a drastic change in strategy.
In other words, the stampede is likely to grow.