After spending much of Monday and Tuesday watching the testimony of Gen. Petraeus, I think that several developments make it much more likely that Congress will grant him more time to carry out the surge strategy. They are, as follows:
–The decision by MoveOn.org to take out the “Betray Us” ad was an absolute blunder. A majority of Americans may oppose the war, but they still hold the military in high esteem, and it simply is not helpful for opposition to the war to be associated with smearing a well-respected military leader who-no matter one’s views on the war-is doing an admirable job given the cards he was dealt. That this was followed by Code Pink’s nonsense during the hearings does not help the anti-war cause either.
–Petraeus proved cool-headed and unflappable through hours of testimony, questions, and grandstanding lectures by members of Congress.
–Petraeus’s proposal to withdraw 30,000 troops, bringing forces to pre-surge levels next July, steals some thunder from the Democrats, especially because Petraeus said he would revisit troop levels in March. Democrats may argue that it’s too little and too slow, but assuming Petraeus’s recommendations are taken up by Bush, removing some troops blunts criticism of Bush as a pig-headed dead-ender who is oblivious to the strain the current troop levels are placing on the military.
–Democratic leaders still seem to have resigned themselves to the fact that they’ll lose this round of the battle over the war. Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Nancy Pelosi again made the argument that as long as Bush’s signature is needed, they cannot end the war. And that brings me to my final point.
–Democrats don’t want to end the war. The biggest issue they have going for them in 2008 is: the only way we can end the war is to elect a Democratic president and more Democrats to Congress. Their base may get restive in the meantime, but the grassroots will still be energized next year by the prospect of retaking the White House.
That’s how it looks now anyway. We’ll see where things are over the next couple of weeks.