With the report by the Baker-Hamilton Commission coming out soon, let me just go on record as saying that the newly-emboldened Democrats should treat the whole spectacle like the sham that it’s always been. It’s always been a transparent ploy to push bad news past the election. Now that the election’s over, the Democrats should treat this dirty trick (which, by delaying a change of course in Iraq, has cost dozens of lives) with the contempt it deserves. You don’t need James Baker to tell you that Iraq has been turned into an unwinnable quagmire.
From the outset, this commission has been a variation of the same self-investigation, “punt our problems into the future” trick that the Bush Administration has been pulling since they sailed into office. They doubted global warming for years insisting that it required more study while rejecting the findings of their cherry-picked experts as the work of “bureaucrats”. The denied that Iraq didn’t have WMD’s while tarring the men who came back empty handed from the government-sponsored snipe hunts as appeasers or fools. And now we’ve got an Administration-friendly look into the mess George Bush has made and they expect us to believe this is going to change anything?
Even if the Baker-Hamilton Commission is candid in its assessment of Iraq (I trust Bush family consigliere James Baker to investigate Dubya’s folly about as much as I trust the Republican Party to investigate Mark Foley.), I see three possible reactions from the Bush Administration :
1) They take the findings to heart and use them as political cover to do the right thing and get the hell out of Iraq.
2) Get annoyed that the report threatens to burst the Bush bubble by saying something King George doesn’t like to hear. Give the report kudos in public, but insist that the Iraqi situation is so complicated that it requires further study. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
3) Hold a photo op praising the members of the Baker-Hamilton Commission for their hard work and dedication to their country. Everybody lines up to get their picture taken with the President. In his remarks, the President promises that his administration will “work quickly to look into implementing the commission’s recommendations”. Bush pretends to do make drastic changes, but does nothing.
Of the three, my guess is that (3) is the most likely. After all, that’s how they dealt with the 9/11 Commission and the “McCain” anti-torture legislation. They’ll do their best to make it seem like they’re actually shifting strategy, but it’ll be “stay the course” until Jan. 2009.
UPDATE : John at Americablog has more. According to the Washington Post, James Baker has “been testing the waters for some time to determine how much change in Iraq policy will be tolerated by the White House“. As John says :
Excuse me? So, that means the guy running this panel isn’t going to give his honest advice – he’s only going to give the closest to honest the White House will let him give. That is totally messed up, incredibly dishonest, and it’s the very reason we’re in this predicament to start with. Generals being afraid of giving honest advice, top advisers to Bush being afraid to tell him the truth. It will be a total travesty if Baker only agrees to what the White House is willing to hear, and Lee Hamilton feels obliged to agree to whatever the Republicans want. Then what is the point of this entire exercise?
To provide political cover to the President and the GOP. The Democrats would be fools to treat the Baker-Hamilton Commission seriously.