President Bush — July 12, 2007:
This September, as Congress has required, General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker will return to Washington to provide a more comprehensive assessment. By that time, we hope to see further improvement in the positive areas, the beginning of improvement in the negative areas. We’ll also have a clearer picture of how the new strategy is unfolding, and be in a better position to judge where we need to make any adjustments.
I will rely on General Petraeus to give me his recommendations for the appropriate troop levels in Iraq. I will discuss the recommendation with the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. I will continue consultations with members of the United States Congress from both sides of the aisle, and then I’ll make a decision.
And so it goes. Everyone is looking to the September report from General Patraeus. Even conservative Republicans think that is going to be the deadline on which our future in Iraq hinges:
"Many of my Republican colleagues have been promised they will get a straight story on the surge by September," said Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.). "I won’t be the only Republican, or one of two Republicans, demanding a change in our disposition of troops in Iraq at that point. That is very clear to me."
House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), who has taken a hard line in Bush’s favor, said Sunday, "By the time we get to September, October, members are going to want to know how well this is working, and if it isn’t, what’s Plan B."
So …for weeks, the White House has responded to every question about Iraq the same way: let’s wait until September and see what Petraeus and Crocker have to say.
Funny thing about Petraeus’s report, though. Look what’s buried deep in the L.A. Times article today:
Despite Bush’s repeated statements that the report will reflect evaluations by Petraeus and Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, administration officials said it would actually be written by the White House, with inputs from officials throughout the government.
Anyone wanna guess how the White House will grade its own "surge" policy? My guess:
1) The surge is working.
2) It needs more time.
3) In 6 months, we will know more.
Then there’s this:
During internal White House discussion of a July interim report, some officials urged the administration to claim progress in policy areas such as legislation to divvy up Iraq’s oil revenue, even though no final agreement had been reached. Others argued that such assertions would be disingenuous.
"There were some in the drafting of the report that said, ‘Well, we can claim progress,’" the administration official said. "There were others who said: ‘Wait a second. Sure we can claim progress, but it’s not credible to . . . just neglect the fact that it’s had no effect on the ground.’"
I guess it’s good news to know that there are at least a few people left in the White House willing to point out that claims of progress are a bad idea if there hasn’t, in fact, been any progress.
UPDATE: The author of this L.A. Times piece was interviewed on NPR, and I caught a bit of his interview. While he confirms that the White House will write the report, the actual recommendations for "what to do in Iraq" will indeed be made by Patraeus and Crocker. That means that the report has to jibe with the recommendations.