As we all ready ourselves for General Patreaus' report on progress in Iraq, the GAO cockblocks the White House with a scathing review of where we stand on the 18 political and security goals put to the Iraqi government last year. Of those 18 goals, only 4 had been "partially met" and the rest have seen little to no progress whatsoever.
Not surprisingly, the White House disputes the GAO's assessment.
"Everyone was aware that some progress on the benchmarks could be seen on a number of the benchmarks," said White House spokesman Tony Fratto. "One didn't really have to travel to Iraq to come to that conclusion. I'm not aware that anyone expected the benchmarks to be completed by September."
Yet, go to Iraq is exactly what the president did this weekend in what is becoming a frequent, if weak, tactic for politicians on both side of the argument. What's not so often done is to debate the goals established and how the US can either move the Iraqis forward on achieving those goals or working to withdraw from Iraq as soon as possible. That is, everyone except the US Comptroller who said congress should debate what exactly our mission (as it stands today) in Iraq actually is: fighting al qaeda or providing security to the general population?
"They're fundamentally different things," he told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday. "I think Congress ought to have a debate . . . what are we going to do and what are going to try to accomplish?"
But that's too much to ask of John Boehner, who may have proffered the lamest analogy yet relating to criticism of the surge.
"The GAO report really amounts to asking someone to kick an 80-yard field goal and criticizing them when they came up 20 or 25 yards short," Boehner said. Of course except that Coach Bush is the man who decided to go for an 80-yard field goal in a game we shouldn't even be playing.
Can Bush keep his Republican congressional support of the war beyond September? That all depends on what Patreaus says and whether the American people believe it. Short of that, he could always ask them to do it for the Gipper.