Tuesday, August 21, 2007

What the war spinners omitted

Breaking news! Hillary Clinton and other leading Democrats eat crow and endorse President Bush's troop hike strategy in Iraq!

So says the conservative media, anyway.

In their latest attempt to spin the Iraq war as a worthy enterprise, in advance of the September Surge report, Bush's enablers have been very busy over the past 24 hours, spreading the story that Hillary, along with Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Carl Levin, have finally acknowledged that the Bush troop hike has improved security around Baghdad.

For instance, The Drudge Report yesterday highlighted a fragment of a Hillary sentence ("it's working") that the Democratic candidate uttered during a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars. The Washington Times newspaper carried a report this morning that Levin, in a joint statement with influential Republican Sen. John Warner, has conceded that "the military aspects of President Bush's new strategy in Iraq ... appear to have produced some credible and positive results." Fox News seconded that, announcing that Levin and Warner were praising the Surge. And redstate.com, a popular website, posted a headline this morning - "Hillary: the Surge is Working" - along with a YouTube clip of her remarks.

Yet somehow, when these allegedly breathless developments are viewed in full context, they seem to lose their punch. Hillary, in her speech, stated: "We've begun to change tactics in Iraq, and in some areas, particularly in Al Anbar province, it's working." (emphasis mine) That's hardly a ringing endorsement of Bush's war stewardship, when one considers what she said next: "We're just years too late changing our tactics. We can't let that ever happen again," which merely underscores what she has repeatedly said in recent years, that the administration's conduct of this war has been abysmal. And because the war has been so badly executed, she said that "I'm not sure there are any good options" in the long run, regardless of how well the Surge goes, as a short-run military tactic.

The Washington Times, to its credit today, did report some of Hillary's caveats. But it was AWOL on Carl Levin. After spotlighting Levin's remarks about how the Surge was producing some positive reults, the newspaper saw fit to omit this passage in the Levin-Warner statement:

"While we believe that the 'surge' is having measurable results, and has provided a degree of 'breathing space,' for Iraqi politicians to make the political compromises which bare essential for a political solution in Iraq, we are not optimistic about the prospects for those compromises."

At least in the traditional world of journalism, it would be deemed highly relevent that a leading Republican foreign policy figure (Warner) is tempering his praise for the Surge by conceding that he is "not optimistic" about the Surge's underlying purpose, and that he also believes "time has run out." But, under the rules of the Bush administration media, that little factoid would interrupt the story line about Democrats eating crow. Hence, its omission.

And while those media outlets were crowing about Hillary and Levin, we also learned elsewhere this morning - in The Wall Street Journal, where the news pages (at least for now) operate by traditional journalistic standards - that others share Warner's view that the Surge may well fail to coax the Iraqis toward reconciliation. Consider this quote: "It would be a huge shame if after all the military has accomplished with the surge, we don't get a political accomodation. But I'm not optimistic."

That was Gen. George Casey, who until recently served as the top U.S commander in Iraq. He and Hillary are saying roughly the same thing.

The basic problem facing the conservative media is that the Surge is no more capable of working miracles than a massive dose of morphine can heal a patient who is mortally ill. The Surge may well ease the pain in Iraq, as Hillary acknowledged yesterday, but a late dose of U.S. military power - after years of administration ineptitude - will not be able to cure the body politic.