James Baker Back-Pedals
James Baker in a Washington Post column Thursday tries to have it both ways, trying to seem loyal to Bush while beating up on Congress for its deadline-laden bills, It sounds like a desperate note of what about us Study Group folks? It is, in fact, a craven political lifeline thrown Bush:
"... more than 100 days after the Iraq Study Group released its report, we are further than ever from a consensus. Recent narrow votes in the House and Senate, largely along partisan lines, illustrate our country's continuing division on this critical issue. The best, and perhaps only, way to build national agreement on the path forward is for the president and Congress to embrace the only set of recommendations that has generated bipartisan support: the Iraq Study Group report. [...] The report does not set timetables or deadlines for the removal of troops, as contemplated by the supplemental spending bills the House and Senate passed. In fact, the report specifically opposes that approach. [...] An important way to encourage Iraqis to work together is to hold them to the type of benchmarks that Congress, President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki have all considered. If the Iraqi government does not meet those benchmarks, the United States "should reduce its political, military, or economic support for the Iraqi government," the report said. But we did not suggest that this be codified into legislation. The report doesn't recommend a firm deadline for troop removal unless America's military leadership believes that the situation warrants it.”
Then he turns on the ass-kissing, which essentially makes a liar out of Baker cut from the same cloth as Bush, only a more diplomatic one. He's not writing a column that helps move the debate forward by unclouding assumptions. He's muddying the waters that the Study Group attempted to unmuddy. He's lending Bush a desperate political hand. It's more than dishonest. It's downright vile, because Baker is selling himself out:
The president announced a " new way forward" on Jan. 10 that supports much of the approach called for by the Iraq Study Group. He has since said that he is moving to embrace our recommendations. The president's plan increases the number of American advisers embedded in Iraqi army units, with the goal that the Iraqi government will assume control of security in all provinces by November. It outlines benchmarks and indicates that the Iraqi government must act to attain them. He has approved ministerial-level meetings of all of Iraq's neighbors, including Syria and Iran; the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council; and other countries. [...] But most important, the president should reiterate his intention to embrace the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group and ask congressional leaders to join him. They should do so. If they do not, the burden of rejecting a unified bipartisan approach would fall on them.
With that said, forget about compromise.