As Bush and Blair prepare to meet, the Financial Times says the Iraq Study Group's report "is particularly damaging to Mr Blair, as it highlights the limits of British influence on US policymaking and the fact that the UK premier is inextricably linked with the Bush administration's battle plan."
The Wall Street Journal says, "Policy makers and the public are likely to view events in Iraq through the lens of the report -- already widely available in paperback form -- well into the coming year. A circuit of congressional hearings, talk shows and lectures featuring the panel members ensures their advice will remain in headlines... Still, a senior administration official said the White House doesn't feel bound by the report and is unlikely to implement many of its recommendations, especially regarding calls for diplomatic outreach to U.S. foes Syria and Iran."
"Except for the recommendations on Iran and Syria, the panel appeared to steer away from language that might inflame the Bush administration," says the Washington Post. "But in language and tone, the 96-page report offered an assessment of the U.S. mission in Iraq that was strikingly different from what has been heard until recently from the White House. There was no mention of the goal of establishing democracy, and no discussion of 'victory' or the centrality of Iraq in 'the war on terror' -- staples of Bush rhetoric."
The Los Angeles Times: "To try to make it easier for Bush - a man who prides himself on consistency and who consequently is criticized by opponents as stubborn - the 10-member commission delivered its report in two parts and two different tones... Members of the commission said they were pleased that Bush gave them as much attention as he did... But they acknowledged that the president did not endorse any of their findings." The story also notes that Cheney may oppose certain recommendations -- but may not have as much influence as he used to.
"The White House insists that Bush will not outsource his decision-making on Iraq, yet the changing political landscape would seem to make it difficult for him not to embrace or - at least seriously consider - opposing views," per the AP.
The Boston Globe's Canellos writes that "the commission's key recommendations carry an emphasis on diplomatic engagement that has been missing from the Bush administration so far" and "represent a direct challenge to President Bush's foreign policy."
The group's assessment that the Administration has underrreported violence in Iraq "confirmed a Sept. 8 McClatchy Newspapers report that U.S. officials excluded scores of people killed in car bombings and mortar attacks from tabulations measuring the results of a drive to reduce violence in Baghdad."
A military analysis by the New York Times notes that the group is positing that the United States "can accomplish in little more than one year what it has failed to carry out in three" -- which is build up Iraq's security forces. "In essence, the study group is projecting that a rapid infusion of American military trainers will so improve the Iraqi security forces that virtually all of the American combat brigades may be withdrawn by the early part of 2008."
Some troops in Iraq aren't optimistic that the group's recommendations are realistic. "The soldiers from Company C, 1st Battalion, 37th Armored Regiment welcomed the plans for change but questioned the high-level U.S. panel's recommendation Wednesday that most combat troops leave Iraq by early 2008."
The Senate confirmed Defense Secretary nominee Robert Gates yesterday, 95-2, "with Democrats and Republicans portraying him as the man who will help overhaul President Bush's Iraq policies."
The Des Moines Register reports that 50 House members have sent Bush a letter urging him to nominate defeated Rep. Jim Leach (R) as UN ambassador. I's unclear, however, whether Leach wants the job.
At a hearing yesterday, incoming Senate Judiciary Committee chair Pat Leahy put the Administration on notice that Democrats intend to monitor its counterterrorism programs, the New York Times writes.
NBC News military analyst Bill Arkin hears that Tommy Franks' decision to sell his house in Tampa and move to Oklahoma is based on his desire to run for federal office from the Sooner State. The former CENCOM commander, responsible for the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, is a native of Wynnewood, OK.