It doesn't require much reading between the lines to understand, at long last, by whom and for whom September's Iraq progress report is being written. And to absolutely no one's surprise, today's understanding is vastly different from yesterday's -- literally.
First we thought it was to be penned by General Petraeus; a mistaken but forgiveable assumption, since, after all, the report was commonly referenced as the upcoming Petraeus Report. Silly us.
No, straight from Disinformation Central, we were told the White House would do the creative writing. This development, at least, comported much more with our cynical expectations. So we settled in for a rousing September tale of slow but steady progress in Iraq, as conceived by those rugged in-the-know types: White House speechwriters.
But now we learn -- again, with a little reading between the lines -- that the White House won't actually be the author, either.
Sure, its name will be on the cover, just as John F. Kennedy's name adorned the Pulitzer-winning Profiles in Courage. But Ted Sorensen-like, it's the Republican Congressional minority that's doing the ghostwriting, and to it should flow most of the credit. For the White House could never pull this off without them.
As expected, the Petraeus-WH-Republican Minority Report will emerge as a stage prop for what the White House now says will be -- have a stiff drink and brace yourself -- "a new strategy for Iraq." It's about time. We haven't changed the commas in the old strategies for months.
But here's the kicker, as reported this morning by the New York Times: the "new strategy" will be "aimed primarily at the growing numbers of Congressional Republicans who have criticized President Bush’s handling of the war. Many Republicans have urged Mr. Bush to unveil a new strategy, and even to propose a gradual reduction of American troops to the levels before this year’s troop increase -- about 130,000 -- or even lower to head off Democratic-led efforts to force the withdrawal of all combat forces by early next year."
So, notwithstanding the report's purported authorship, it's the Republican minority that's giving dictation. It's assessed how fantastically hopeful the report needs to be to justify, in turn, the political bottlenecking of any serious Democratic attempt at shutting the war down.
Ironically, White House spokesman Tony Snow brushed against the truth of the matter this week when he assailed Congressional Democrats by saying they should "throw off election-season blinders and join us in finishing what the surge has begun."
Such as the beginning of the end?
Right sentiment, Tony. Wrong party.