With more and more senior Republicans abandoning the president by the day, Bush is now set to make what will prove to be one of the most unpopular moves of his entire presidency when he uses his veto power to try and kill off the Democrats 'Troops Out In 2008' war spending bill.
As Dan Froomkin from the Washington Post's White House Watch observes, "Bush is in a real bind" :
In the same speech Bush said :
The combination of veto power and a sizeable Republican minority means the president can reliably block any Democratic legislation he dislikes from becoming law.
But in this case, Bush affirmatively needs Congress to send him a war funding bill so he can keep fighting the war in Iraq. Now that the Democrats have succeeded in attaching a timetable for troop withdrawal to the funding bill, he is left with two basic options: negotiate with the Democrats -- or play a hugely consequential game of chicken.
So far signs are that Bush is going with the latter option.
"Some Democrats believe that by delaying funding for our troops, they can force me to accept restrictions on our commanders that I believe would make withdrawal and defeat more likely," Bush said in a belligerent speech to a boisterous bunch of beef barons this morning. "That's not going to happen. . . .
"The clock is ticking for our troops in the field," he added. "If Congress fails to pass a bill to fund our troops on the front lines, the American people will know who to hold responsible."
"...at the very moment that General Petraeus's strategy is beginning to show signs of success, the Democrats in the House of Representatives have passed an emergency war spending bill that undercuts him and the troops under his command.
"This bill would damage our effort in Iraq three ways. First, the House bill would impose restrictions on our commanders in Iraq, as well as rigid conditions and arbitrary deadlines on the Iraqi government. It would mandate a precipitous withdrawal of American forces, if every one of these conditions is not met by a date certain. Even if they are met, the bill would still require that most American forces begin retreating from Iraq by March 1st of next year, regardless of conditions on the ground.
"It's unclear what the military significance of this date is. What is clear is that the consequences of imposing such a specific and random date for withdrawal would be disastrous. If the House bill becomes law, our enemies in Iraq would simply have to mark their calendars. They'd spend the months ahead picking how to use their new -- plotting how to use their new safe havens once we were to leave. It makes no sense for politicians in Washington, D.C. to be dictating arbitrary time lines for our military commanders in a war zone 6,000 miles away.
"...the House bill also undermines the Iraqi government, and contradicts the Democrats' claim that they simply want to help the Iraqis solve their own problems. For example, the House bill would cut funding for the Iraqi security forces if Iraqi leaders did not meet arbitrary deadlines.
"The Democrats cannot have it both ways. They can't say that the Iraqis must do more, and then take away the funds that will help them do so. Iraq is a young democracy. It is fighting for its survival in a region that is vital to our security. The lesson of September the 11th must not be forgot. To cut off support for the security forces would put our own security at risk."...the clock is ticking for our troops in the field. Funding for our forces in Iraq will begin to run out in mid-April. Members of Congress need to stop making political statements, and start providing vital funds for our troops. They need to get that bill to my desk so I can sign it into law.
"I know when you see somebody in the uniform, you praise them, and I thank you for that. We need to praise those military families, too, that are strong, standing by their loved one in this mighty struggle to defend this country. They risk their lives to fight a brutal and determined enemy, an enemy that has no respect for human life.
"We saw that brutality in a recent attack. Just two weeks ago, terrorists in Baghdad put two children in the back of an explosive-laden car, and they used them to get the car past a security checkpoint. And once through, the terrorists fled the vehicle and detonated the car with the children inside. Some call this civil war; others call it emergency [sic] -- I call it pure evil. And that evil that uses children in a terrorist attack in Iraq is the same evil that inspired and rejoiced in the attacks of September the 11th, 2001. And that evil must be defeated overseas, so we don't have to face them here again.
"If we cannot muster the resolve to defeat this evil in Iraq, America will have lost its moral purpose in the world, and we will endanger our citizens, because if we leave Iraq before the job is done, the enemy will follow us here. Prevailing in Iraq is not going to be easy. Four years after this war began, the nature of the fight has changed, but this is a fight that can be won. We can have confidence in the outcome, because this nation has done this kind of work before."
Bush also enthusiastically talked up what he said were signs of stability and progress in Iraq. He cited two bloggers, in particular, whose posts, while they may have been genuine, read like they were the work of the same people who wrote Bush's speech. Presumably, Bush was not quoting the Iraqi bloggers directly.But while Bush enthused about the "spreading" stability in Iraq, the violence there hit shocking heights :
...news agencies reported a grim list of incidents of continuing insurgent and sectarian violence across the country.
For example, in Tall Afar, a northern Iraqi city that Bush has extolled as a model for U.S. pacification efforts, Shiite gunmen, reportedly including policemen, stormed a Sunni Muslim district and killed at least 50 people today in reprisal for twin truck bombings yesterday that killed at least 55 in Shiite areas of the city.
In Fallujah, two suicide bombers blew up trucks loaded with chlorine outside a local government building, injuring at least 15 Iraqi and U.S. personnel in the latest of a series of such makeshift chemical weapons attacks. In Baghdad, a car bomb killed two Iraqi civilians, and an American soldier and a government contractor died in mortar or rocket attacks on the heavily fortified Green Zone.
CORRECTION : Bush quoted a blog called 'Iraq The Model' and used the following passage in his speech, though he cherry-picked the quotes from a compilation of posts on Opinion Journal :
"Displaced families are returning home, marketplaces are seeing more activity, stores that were long shuttered are now reopening. We feel safer about moving in the city now. Our people want to see this effort succeed. We hope the governments in Baghdad and America do not lose their resolve."
Bush Warns Against Iraq Timetable, Pelosi Tells Bush To "Calm Down"