Taking the president seriously

The subject on yesterday’s edition of the O’Reilly Factor was how long we have to turn things around in Iraq. O’Reilly thought that President Bush has about six months to show the American people that we’re making progress.
Bill O’Reilly is as astute as they come, and his nervousness about the situation in Iraq is understandable. However, I think the best answer to his question is that we have until January 2009, when Bush’s second term expires, to turn it around. It’s the president’s decision how long we stay engaged, and at what level. I believe that Bush is committed to winning in Iraq and, if neccessary, will take all the time available to him to accomplish this. Nor, under our democratic system, is there anything improper about this single-minded approach. We decide public policy through elections, not polls. When Bush ran for president last year, the military situation was probably comparable to what it is today. Bush promised to stay until the job was done. He set no timetable, nor did he say or imply that the job would be completed soon. He was re-elected with a majority of the votes cast. He’s entitled to stay the course.
O’Reilly and his guest Douglas Brinkley pointed to the 2006 elections. But I doubt that the congressional elections will constrain Bush. First, there’s no reason to believe that the Republicans will suffer significantly due to the war. The 2006 math is quite favorable to the Republicans keeping solid control of both Houses, barring overconfidence, arrogance, or corruption on the part of a critical mass of the party’s incumbents. And individual members who think the war is hurting them will tend to distance themselves from Bush. Second, I doubt that Bush would change course significantly even if he thought doing so would materially affect the 2006 elections. As Bush spelled out before an Idaho crowd last night (in the speech cited by John below) “Terrorists will emerge from Iraq one of two ways: emboldened or defeated.” I don’t expect the president to opt for “emboldened” in the hope of influencing the 2006 election.
America isn’t used to having a president who does what he says he will do. But like it or not, George W. Bush is such a president.

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