Bush to Maliki: Help Me Help You

Don't miss the New York Times piece about President Bush and his video huddles with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, where the two men speak of their faith in God, and presumably Bush's faith in Maliki, as he gently tries to prod the man into actually doing what Bush sent tens of thousands of additional troops to Iraq this year to help Maliki accomplish. There is something terribly poignant about Bush hunkered in the bunker of the newly refurbished White House Situation Room urging Maliki to send a message to the region that will help him with his Sunni neighbors — and that will help Bush here at home.

At home Bush could start listening to pained and strained people in his party still defending the war and taking a beating for it. Maybe this could happen on video. But Manu Raju's story in our paper today — that even conservative leaders Grover Norquist and David Keene are urging Bush to articulate that at some point the troops are "leaving" Iraq — sums it up. The story stated that Norquist said if Bush changes nothing it will allow Democrats to charge the strategy isn't working, which resonates with the public.

And then there are those Republican senators who had begun to leave the reservation on Iraq but who stuck by Bush during the Senate all-nighter both parties agreed was a stunt to pacify the pacifists, or assuage the anti-war left, but move no votes. What did they get? Bush changed the standards for benchmarks and Pentagon officials announced they would need an additional 45 days to assess progress in Iraq. Republicans can't wait to go home and tell that to the voters in the hot month of August.

If Bush doesn't throw these Republicans a bone, like he does for Maliki, he could find that Republicans beat Maliki to it, as more defections could ultimately move enough votes. If that happens I imagine it will be hard to get Maliki to answer the video phone.

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