At a press conference this morning, President Bush brushed aside criticism from Republican senators, and the idea that the American people want a change in policy in Iraq. When the president was asked about the mixed results in the report issued today about political progress Iraq, and how he is going to persuade Republicans to stick with him, he answered, “First of all, they share my concern that a precipitous withdrawal would embolden al Qaeda. And they also understand that we can’t let al Qaeda gain safe haven inside of Iraq. I appreciate their calls and I appreciate their desire to work with the White House to be in a position where we can sustain a presence in Iraq.”

Bush continued, “What I tell them is this, just what I’ve told you, is that as the Commander-in-Chief of the greatest military ever, I have an obligation, a sincere and serious obligation, to hear out my commander on the ground. And I will take his recommendation. And as I mentioned, to talk to Bob Gates about it, as well as the Joint Chiefs about it, as well as consult with members of the Congress, both Republicans and Democrats, as I make a decision about the way forward in Iraq.”

Then President Bush was asked why he is so resistant to a change in course and Iraq, and how long he will stick by the troop surge before considering changing his policy? He answered, “First, I understand why the American people are — you know, they’re tired of the war. There is — people are — there is a war fatigue in America. It’s affecting our psychology. I’ve said this before. I understand that this is an ugly war. It’s a war in which an enemy will kill innocent men, women and children in order to achieve a political objective. It doesn’t surprise me that there is deep concern amongst our people.”

He then reiterated his belief that America can succeed in Iraq, “Part of that concern is whether or not we can win; whether or not the objective is achievable. People don’t want our troops in harm’s way if that which we are trying to achieve can’t be accomplished. I feel the same way. I cannot look a mother and father of a troop in the eye and say, I’m sending your kid into combat, but I don’t think we can achieve the objective. I wouldn’t do that to a parent or a husband or wife of a soldier. I believe we can succeed and I believe we are making security progress that will enable the political tract to succeed, as well. And the report, by the way, which is, as accurately noted, is being submitted today, is written a little less than a month after the full complement of troops arrived..”

As far as how long he sticks with the troop surge is concerned Bush said, “And you asked, how long does one wait? I will repeat, as the Commander-in-Chief of a great military who has supported this military and will continue to support this military, not only with my — with insisting that we get resources to them, but with — by respecting the command structure, I’m going to wait for David to come back — David Petraeus to come back and give us the report on what he sees. And then we’ll use that data, that — his report to work with the rest of the military chain of command, and members of Congress, to make another decision, if need be.”

Remember back in January when President Bush proposed the troop surge, and he said it was going to be a short term mission through the summer? In case you didn’t notice, the president has now postponed any decision on the surge until after the September report. This is starting to look less and less like a troop surge, and more like an escalation. He has basically dared the Republican members of Congress to break with him, because I think his comments make it very clear that he will not be changing his strategy. What he essentially said today is that he is the president, and he will follow the course he chooses. It doesn’t matter what the American people or Congress think.

President Bush is gambling that when push comes to shove, the Republicans won’t side with the Democrats and either cut off funds for the war, or support a troop withdrawal. This is a gamble that I am not so sure he is going to win. Eventually, GOP reelection concerns are going to win out over a lame duck president’s unpopular war. Most of all, it is sad that more American soldiers are going to have to die, because congressional Republicans don’t have the political courage to do the right thing. Maybe if the politicians thought about the war in these terms, they would be a little faster to act.

Full text of President Bush’s press conference

Jason Easley is the editor of the politics zone at 411mania.com.  His news column The Political Universe appears on Tuesdays and Fridays atwww.411mania.com/politics 

Jason can also be heard every Sunday at 7:00 pm (ET) as the host of The Political Universe Radio Show at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/thepoliticaluniverse
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