Remember the reason for the surge of our troops in Iraq? That U.S. forces would secure Baghdad and other areas while hard work on the political front would lead to true Iraqi stability that would enable us to leave? Where’s the beef?

As a May 3 meeting at Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt of all nations involved in Iraq approaches, several countries are warning the United States government of their concerns that four months after President Bush announced a New Way Forward in Iraq the Iraqis are not moving forward on the political benchmarks the strategy required of them. Tasked with disbanding militias, equally distributing oil wealth, holding elections and revisiting de-Baathification, the Iraqis have yet to step foot on the long road ahead. Kuwait, Russia, China and Iran are not ready to sign on to 100 percent debt relief for Iraq until they see promising political progress.

In his PBS interview with Charlie Rose, Bush said the government of Nouri al-Maliki has “still got a lot of work to do,” and he conceded that should Maliki ask the United States to leave, “I don’t know how we could stay.” A New York Times article today said the Bush administration, while blasting away at the Democrats’ proposed timetable for withdrawal, “has quietly been setting targets of its own” for Maliki and the Iraqis.

In all their meetings about vetoes I wonder if Bush has shared with the Democrats the secret timetable he is giving Maliki. If he has shared it and Democrats are assured he is backing the surge with the requisite pressure then they should support him and stop playing politics. If he has tried to bring the Democrats into the process, Bush should tell us all how he has done so, and how they are playing politics. If Bush has not tried to convince Democrats of his efforts then he is playing politics, and he is on his own.