All Eyes On ...

As we approach Sept. 15, all eyes are no longer on potential GOP defectors like Sen. John Warner (Va.) or even Gen. David Petraeus — we are now setting our sights on Democrats like Rep. Brian Baird (Wash.) and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Baird, who returned from a trip to Iraq last week, said he could no longer support binding withdrawal plans and now believes we need to stay in Iraq as long as required to stabilize the country. Similar comments were made by other Democrats, including Reps. Tim Mahoney (Fla.) and Jerry McNerney (Calif.).

Maliki has now officially fallen out of favor with President Bush, who has suggested the Iraqis may replace him, since he is the new target of Democrats in Congress — who will ultimately fund the war. As the debate suddenly shifts, with their own colleagues touting progress on the ground in Iraq, those Democrats are searching for new topics of conversation about Iraq.

Maliki isn't too happy about what he sees as a fight the Americans have chosen to pick with him. "No one has the right to place timetables on the Iraq government. It was elected by its people," he told reporters after returning from a trip to Syria that he said had "bothered" those criticizing him. "We will pay no attention. We care for our people and our constitution and can find friends elsewhere."

Baird said his visit convinced him that the surge has not only produced "real and tangible progress on the ground" but that withdrawal "could have a potentially catastrophic effect on the region." Clearly Maliki is not worried about the same thing.

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