Yesterday von made an excellent point at Obsidian Wings:
Best sign that Jim Baker hasn’t lost his political touch?
Somehow, he managed to co-author a report on Iraq that Democrats, Republicans, alleged Libertarians, and even Andrew-freakin’-Sullivan can claim, like, totally validates at least one of their dearly-held positions. Sure, they all find problems to pick at. But c’mon: Give props to the political maestro at work.
Thoughtful left-of-center blogs also sensed that we are in a protean period where the ISG report can mean almost anything to anyone. Despite the often harsh rhetoric, in that context the report could actually be an opportunity for the White House. Kevin Drum touches on this point and Steve Benen has identified at least one loophole big enough to drive 17 brigades through.
For several reasons the Iraq panel, like the 9/11 Commission, holds the media high ground right now. The ISG seems to deliver a good deal of exactly the new thinking that American voters demanded only one month ago, making this the government service equivalent of receiving your perfectly-seared duck breast before you finish handing the menu back to the waiter. The panel’s bipartisan triangulation hits the media’s centrism tic right in the sweet spot, guaranteeing that pundits will reflexively dismiss anybody who deviates too far on either side. As I said before the Panel’s biggest impact will be to shift the narrative, to slide the Overton Window of ideas that conventional wisdom deems reasonable, away from Cheney and towards Dean. Smart politicians will need to find a way to merge the ISG’s position with their own or else face the wrath of the pundit class.
In my view the president could win back quite a bit of political capital by publicly embracing the ISG report. Press would eat it up and Democrats would be forced to either cooperate with the president, try to claim the ISG mantle for themselves (not a sure winner by any means) or go back to living outside the Overton Window. I’m not saying that the move would be a slam-dunk, but for a seasoned pro like JFK or Nixon the move would be a no-brainer.
Here’s the catch: to embrace the ISG Junior has to acknowledge that he deserved Baker and Hamilton’s starkly-worded spankings of his policy and execution. Good luck with that. For depressingly personal reasons I think that it will be completely impossible for the president to do the politically smart thing. Bush only had a few days at best to shape ISG perceptions to his advantage, and it’s safe to say that he blew it.
You could see it in Tony Snow’s presser of two days ago. “Spanking? What spanking? They were shouting boo-urns.”
Now the president has made it official – the ISG can pound salt.
[W]hile the president called the Iraq Study Group’s ideas “worthy of serious study,” he seemed to dismiss the most significant ones point by point. He noted that Blair is heading to the Middle East to promote Arab-Israeli peace, but he gave no indication that he plans an aggressive new push of his own as proposed by the commission. Bush said he, too, wants to bring U.S. troops home but noted that the group qualified its 2008 goal by linking it to security on the ground.
And he repeated his refusal to talk with Iran and Syria unless Tehran suspends its uranium-enrichment program, Damascus stops interfering in Lebanon and both drop their support for terrorist groups.
I especially like that last part: Bush won’t talk to Iran or Syria until they agree to everything America demands, in advance. The president might as well have added, Before we let you leave, your commander must cross that field, present himself before this army, put his head between his legs, and kiss his own arse. I guess that’s how we negotiate in Texas.
I hope that Junior enjoys life outside the Overton WIndow, looking in.