Thursday, August 30, 2007

You Can Fool Some of the People ...

The administration's "pull out all the stops" Perception Management effort to convince the public that the situation on the ground in Iraq is improving seems to be paying dividends, at least according to some people.

The White House is growing more confident that it can beat back efforts by Congressional Democrats to shift course in Iraq, a significant turnabout from two months ago, when a string of Republican defections had administration officials worried that President Bush’s troop buildup was in serious danger on Capitol Hill.

Current and former administration officials say they realize that the September battle over the troop buildup will be difficult. But they also say the president’s hand is stronger now than it was in early July, when Republican senators like Pete V. Domenici of New Mexico and Richard G. Lugar of Indiana publicly called for a change of course.

“There is a tonal shift, and that is important, but there is always the chance that it could be ephemeral, in the same way that the panic of early July proved ephemeral,” said Peter D. Feaver, who helped draft the buildup strategy as an official with the National Security Council but recently returned to his post as a political science professor at Duke University. “I don’t detect any triumphalism in the White House.”

A senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity to avoid upstaging the president, said there was “a sense the dynamic has changed.” But the official was also cautious, adding: “I don’t want to portray overconfidence. This is a very important debate, and September is going to be a very important month.”

With Congress in recess in August, no reliable indication of lawmakers’ sentiments will emerge until the House and Senate return next week.

Democratic leaders say they intend to renew their efforts to force Mr. Bush to withdraw troops as soon as possible, and one prominent Republican — Senator John W. Warner of Virginia, the senior Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee — rattled the White House last week when he called for Mr. Bush to begin bringing a small number of troops home by Christmas.

But other Republicans have not embraced Mr. Warner’s plan. At the same time, some Democrats who had been critical of Mr. Bush’s handling of the war have acknowledged that the heightened American troop levels in Iraq do appear to have produced some signs of military progress.

At least one nonpartisan analyst, Charlie Cook, the editor of The Cook Political Report, an independent newsletter, says the pendulum appears to be swinging — even though the war remains hugely unpopular and Republican lawmakers are under great pressure at home to end it.

“It’s a momentum situation,” he said. “The momentum back in June and early July was really running hard against the war, and it was starting to snowball. But that snowballing stopped, and it has probably kind of reversed itself somewhat.”

Unfortunately for the White House, you can't bullshit history.

The Iraq disaster will look even worse in hindsight than it does to the media-influenced American people now.

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