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Security politics

"While seeking a new course in Iraq, President Bush has not changed his tone about the stakes involved in the war, the importance of victory or his definition of success," the AP observes.  "His public remarks in recent days have given no hint of the new direction that White House officials expect Bush will announce in a speech before Christmas.  The president's comments sound much as they did in the weeks before the November elections." 

The New York Times: "Aides said that through this week's meetings Mr. Bush was 'approaching the conclusion' of his deliberations.  But officials said the semipublic nature of the meetings - which were put on Mr. Bush's schedule last week - were also in part intended to show that he is urgently working on a solution to the worsening instability of Iraq at a time of heavy public pressure to show progress there."  More: "A poll released by CBS News on Monday showed Mr. Bush had his lowest approval rating ever on the war:" 21%." 

A new Gallup Poll for USA Today shows that "Americans are increasingly pessimistic about the war and want most U.S. troops withdrawn within a year," and that three out of four "support the major recommendations unveiled by the Iraq Study Group."  "...[F]ewer than 1 in 5 have 'a great deal' of trust in Bush to 'recommend the right thing' for the United States to do in Iraq" -- but "[c]onfidence in Democratic congressional leaders to chart the proper course is even lower, at 14%." 

(Not helping Democrats: In an interiew with Congressional Quarterly, Rep. Silvestre Reyes, the incoming Democratic chair of the House Intelligence Committee, "could not describe Hezbollah and incorrectly described al-Qaeda's Islamic roots in a recent interview." 

In a separate poll story, USA Today says, "Most Americans are convinced of two things: It's important that the United States succeed in Iraq.  Eight in 10 of those surveyed... agree with President Bush about that.  Important, perhaps, but not worth the price.  By nearly 2-1, they also say the costs of succeeding in Iraq outweigh the benefits.  Eight in 10 want most U.S. troops withdrawn within two years.  Nearly a third want them home within six months." 

The outside experts with whom Bush met yesterday seemed to agree with him in opposing two big recommendations by the Iraq Study Group: reducing the number of US combat troops and reaching out to Iran and Syria, reports the Washington Post

The Financial Times takes the latest look at the emerging bipartisan consensus in Washington to "blame the Iraqis."  The "breadth of support for such a line is striking," ranging from outgoing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to Sen. Barack Obama (D), who recently "implied that Baghdad was suffering from welfare dependency." 

Republican political consultant Mike Murphy writes in a Los Angeles Times op-ed, "The grim truth is that between the 'thumping' his party took at the ballot box in November and the intrusive help of the Baker commission, the president has lost so much power at home that he can no longer maneuver successfully in Iraq."  He writes, "only legitimate bipartisanship can give the president back the authority he needs to move diplomatically and militarily."