President Bush's reaction to the presentations given by Gen. Petraeus and Amb. Crocker has been surprisingly deft. Not that he's not capable of feeding his cronies talking points and then crafting his own speeches all as part of a master plan; most politicians can do that. What surprises me is how utterly sly he must have been to put this plan together so far in advance.
Clearly, the lesson Bush and Co. took from the Republican defeat in 2006 was that the White House had to provide political cover for Republicans in 2008 or the Republican Party was toast. Of course, the big issue that needed to be covered was the Iraq War, specifically, why American boys were still dying over there instead of living at home with their families. Large majorities of Americans want the war to be over with, want our troops to come home; this is what the Democrats at least pretended to offer, and that's why the Democrats got elected in 2006.
Bush's plan- the surge- seemed totally counter-intuitive when he introduced it. Not only was it not a good idea militarily for a dozen reasons, it also contradicted what every sane person wanted. It turns out, though, that this plan was complete genius. By increasing soldier levels in Iraq to the maximum the military could handle, and then decreasing again to the prior level over the course of 18 months or so, Bush ended up with exactly what he wanted: his propaganda mill will spin this as Bringing the Troops Home while leaving exactly the same number of soldiers in Iraq that were there in 2006.
Even the newspaper headlines are calling this reversion to the situation we had before the surge "troop cuts;" the LA Times headline reads, "Bush says he'll start bringing troops home before Christmas." Who's heart wouldn't lift after reading a headline like that? This masterfully re-defines the situation as a petty political debate about how many troops we should withdraw, and when. For people who don't read their newspapers entirely, who don't troll the internet for clues to what really went on behind all the spin that gets spewed out, it will seem like the President has agreed to leave Iraq, when of course he's done nothing of the sort.
It's almost enough to make me wonder if that stupid smirk Bush always wears is just a tactic to make his enemies underestimate him. He has clearly out-maneuvered the Democrats this time. It's too bad all his slyness is being used to harm the country he swore to serve, instead of to protect and nurture it.