He is who we thought he was.
Today's the day. It's the day where we, once again, turn the 4th corner at the Iraqi National Speedway and get ready to start all over again: It's Petraeus time.
For months and months and months, Republicans have been telling the country that we just need to wait until General Petraeus comes up to the Hill before we make any rash decisions on Iraq. This is a brilliant strategy by the GOP. The good General will sit before the House and Senate--his shirt overflowing with shiny medals and his lips trickling with wicked-sounding acronyms--and congressional Democrats will immediately loose their nerve and fail to ask what needs to be asked and do what needs to be done.
(BTW: There is still time to place your bets.)
So, in the interest of helping the only people that have a hope of a chance of a prayer of really getting things back on the right track, here is your official Democratic Petraeus Cliff Notes.
1- General Petraeus is issuing a report on his own performance. If you can't figure out what is wrong with this situation, go home. Immediately. Give yourself the day off.
2- The Petraeus report has gone from a Petraeus written report to Congress to a White House written report to Congress to a no-it-really-will-be-Petraeus written report before Congress to a report behind closed doors with a SecDef report to Congress to a non-written Petraeus report. What are the standards? What are the measurements? What statements/rationale used by Republicans to justify another couple of months/lives/dollars spent in Iraq does not match up with the changes that the 'Petraeus report' has undergone during since he arrived on the scene?
3- Why is Petraeus a White House PR flack? Why is there a Petraeus media room at the White House? Why did Petraeus only meet with Republicans earlier in the year? What about his rosy (and incorrect) editorial right before the 2004 election? How and why is this guy not viewed as a White House political operative before he is an Army General?
4- We already have lots and lots of reports on Iraq--independent ones; not ones made by a guy who not only is critiquing himself, but whose very existence as Grand Poohbah in Iraq is partly the result of the failure of his past self to adequately accomplish his past self's mission and train the Iraqi security forces to do their damn job.
5- What on earth is up with this?
6- Where is the data and is it legitimate? (None of this 'lets not count Sunni on Sunni' crap.)
Paul Krugman summed most of this up last week. Here is a brief rundown of his column:
There are five things I hope Democrats in Congress will remember.We know who he is. We know what he is going to say. We've all played this game for the last 4+ years. None of this should come as a surprise. Obey Denny and don't crown his ass.
First, no independent assessment has concluded that violence in Iraq is down. On the contrary, estimates based on morgue, hospital and police records suggest that the daily number of civilian deaths is almost twice its average pace from last year. And a recent assessment by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office found no decline in the average number of daily attacks.
Second, Gen. Petraeus has a history of making wildly overoptimistic assessments of progress in Iraq that happen to be convenient for his political masters.
Third, any plan that depends on the White House recognizing reality is an idle fantasy. According to The Sydney Morning Herald, on Tuesday Mr. Bush told Australia’s deputy prime minister that “we’re kicking ass” in Iraq. Enough said.
Fourth, the lesson of the past six years is that Republicans will accuse Democrats of being unpatriotic no matter what the Democrats do. Democrats gave Mr. Bush everything he wanted in 2002; their reward was an ad attacking Max Cleland, who lost both legs and an arm in Vietnam, that featured images of Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein.
Finally, the public hates this war and wants to see it ended. Voters are exasperated with the Democrats, not because they think Congressional leaders are too liberal, but because they don’t see Congress doing anything to stop the war.
PS: This isn't a big point, but it would be nice to have someone ask the General if the timing of this report had anything to do with it being presented on the day before the 9/11 anniversary.
PPS: Are we ever going to get that congressionally mandated Iraq report?