- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 12, 2007

In a hurry to quit

“In Washington perception is often mistaken for reality. And as Congress prepares for a fresh debate on Iraq, the perception many members have is that the new strategy has already failed,” Kimberly Kagan writes in the Wall Street Journal.

“This isn’t an accurate reflection of what is happening on the ground, as I saw during my visit to Iraq in May. Reports from the field show that remarkable progress is being made. Violence in Baghdad and Anbar Province is down dramatically, grass-roots political movements have begun in the Sunni Arab community, and American and Iraqi forces are clearing al Qaeda fighters and Shiite militias out of long-established bases around the country,” said Ms. Kagan, an affiliate of Harvard’s John M. Olin Institute of Strategic Studies and executive director of the Institute for the Study of War in Washington.

“This is remarkable because the military operation that is making these changes possible only began in full strength on June 15. To say that the surge is failing is absurd. Instead Congress should be asking this question: Can the current progress continue?”

The writer added: “Demands for withdrawal are no longer demands to pull out of a deteriorating situation with little hope; they are now demands to end a new approach to this conflict that shows every sign of succeeding.”

Getting it wrong

“Tuesday’s ‘CBS Evening News’ and ‘NBC Nightly News’ blamed Republican presidential candidate John McCain’s reduced fundraising and low rank in the polls, which led two top advisers to leave the campaign, on McCain’s view that U.S. troops must stay in Iraq — not on how out of step he is with conservatives on the immigration bill he crafted with Ted Kennedy,” the Media Research Center’s Brent Baker reports at www.mrc.org.

“CBS anchor Katie Couric declared: ‘No public figure has supported the President’s Iraq policy more than Senator John McCain, and he’s paid a heavy price for that. His presidential campaign is struggling and today, Jeff Greenfield reports, there was a big shakeup.’ Greenfield, at least, paired Couric’s spin with the immigration issue: ‘Money woes are only part of the problem. His Iraq views are at odds with more and more in his own party and McCain’s a sponsor of the dead-for-now immigration reform bill that has incensed many conservatives.’

“Over on NBC, in a story about the political fight over whether to withdraw troops from Iraq, David Gregory framed McCain’s Tuesday morning Senate floor comments around how his stance on Iraq is what has ‘undermined’ his campaign: ‘Just back from Iraq, Senator John McCain, whose presidential campaign has been undermined by his support for the war, gave the president a big boost.’

“On ABC’s ‘World News,’ George Stephanopoulos refrained from blaming any policy view for the troubles facing the McCain campaign.”

Mr. Baker pointed out a fact that apparently eluded CBS and NBC: “While McCain may be more outspoken than other GOP candidates in his persistence about the need to keep U.S. troops in Iraq, every Republican presidential candidate but Ron Paul has stuck with President Bush on Iraq.”

Laughter and tears

A sarcastic response from President Bush during a public forum appeared to drive a 13-year-old girl to tears Tuesday.

Jessica Hackerd of Brecksville, Ohio, had tears streaming down her face after asking the president a question in Cleveland.

“Mr. President, I know immigration has been a big problem in the U.S. And what is your next step with the immigration bill?” Jessica asked Mr. Bush, during a question-and-answer period after a speech Mr. Bush gave to a business group.

Mr. Bush’s reply — a wry “yeah, thanks” — drew laughter from the crowd of 400, Jon Ward of The Washington Times reports. But the attention caused Jessica to immediately tear up.

“No, it’s a great question. No, I appreciate that,” Mr. Bush said, as he saw Jessica’s reaction.

Jessica later explained in an interview that she was crying because she was so nervous. But when the president’s sarcastic answer was mentioned, she said, “I heard that, too.”

Mr. Bush responded to her question with more than 1,100 words about the defeat of his immigration proposals.

Jessica, who attended the Cleveland event with her parents and younger sister, continued to wipe tears from her eyes for several minutes, and midway through his answer, Mr. Bush tried to encourage the distraught youngster.

“It’s a great question by the way, and I’m glad you asked it,” Mr. Bush said.

After the president finished taking questions, an aide immediately went to Jessica and took her backstage, where Mr. Bush met with Jessica and her family.

“He said it was really brave of me to do that and he said he probably wouldn’t have been able to do that,” Jessica said. “And he said it was the first time anybody had asked him about [immigration] since it happened.”

No Rodham trial

A lawsuit that accuses the brother of Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton of failing to repay a loan from a couple that was pardoned by former President Bill Clinton will not go to trial today as originally scheduled.

The trial in Nashville, Tenn., has been delayed until next month, but Tony Rodham’s attorney said last week that it will be settled.

The bankruptcy court case asks Mr. Rodham to pay $107,000 plus interest to the estate of United Shows of America, owned by the late Edgar Gregory and his wife, Vonna Jo. Mr. Rodham contends the money was for consulting services and not a loan, the Associated Press reports.

The couple received pardons in a bank fraud conviction in March 2000, about two years after Mr. Rodham became a paid consultant to United Shows, a carnival business. Mr. Rodham has said he mentioned the possible pardons to his brother-in-law. However, he said Mr. Clinton decided to grant clemency to the Gregorys on the merits.

Tancredo boast

Republican presidential hopeful and illegal-immigration opponent Tom Tancredo said yesterday that he “can take some credit” for the current campaign woes of his rival for the nomination, Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

Mr. Tancredo, a Colorado congressman and a longshot candidate, has hammered Mr. McCain in Iowa and other states for his support of a failed immigration bill that would have legalized millions of aliens now in the country, the Associated Press reports.

Mr. McCain is struggling to raise money and lags behind former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani in most polls. This week he fired much of his campaign staff in an attempt to get back on track.

“To the extent that I believe that I have been somewhat successful in moving this issue and getting it to the point where it is now part of the presidential debate, yeah, I guess I can take some credit,” Mr. Tancredo said at a news conference. “Small, but some.”

The best thing about the Senate bill, which failed last month, is that “it means there will never be a President McCain,” Mr. Tancredo added.

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or gpierce@washingtontimes.com.

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