The Bush-McCain plan is DOA. So what's next?

I'm not sure that in my over 20 years of involvement in politics and media have I seen as disastrous a pre-launch of a major policy initiative as what the President will propose this week for Iraq.   From George Will to David Brooks to the front page of the Washington Post there is doubt, confusion, concern emanating from all involved, including, remarkably, those talking on official background from the White House.   As I’ve been suggesting for some time, it is now clear that the White House no longer knows what to do, and that whatever they propose will be more prayer than policy.

I don’t really know what happens next with our debate about the Middle East.  With so many Republican Senators and leaders voicing coming out against a troop escalation I think at this point the President’s “new way forward” has already been politically defeated.  So what comes next?  Taking center stage this week, and for the next month, will be Senator Biden as he kicks off a series of welcome hearings on Iraq and the Middle East.  But if the Presidents plan goes down, quickly, as it appears, what’s next?

As an American it worries me that our President and Commander in Chief is so politically weakened and seemingly so out of it.  The stories from the White House today sound almost desperate, like the staff knows that on the defining issue of the day they are out of ideas, confused, tired, beaten.  No one is taking the new plan seriously.  It is such an extraordinary sign of weakness, to leaders here in Washington and around the world, that we cannot allow that kind of dispiriting drift and confusion to define the new post-2006 America.  Our new Congressional leaders should begin thinking through their strategy for a prolonged and very public engagement about what comes next, and start understanding that this indeed will be very much their problem soon.

If there was a glimmer of hope this week it was the appointment of a new national security team.  We need a new team in there, offering fresh perspectives and new ideas, and the new appointments seem solid and strong.  They are being handed a bad hand, have little time to learn their new positions and will be under great pressure.  But it is encouraging that the President understood enough the depths of his failure to bring in a whole new team to give us some hope that we can find not just a new way forward but a better one.