Bush, believing he retains a strong position on Capitol Hill regarding the war, at least for now, is much more focused on what's happening in the field than on the jockeying in Congress.
"Our concern is winning in Iraq," says White House Press Secretary Tony Snow. Bush was so sure of his strong position that he sent word to aides last Friday that he didn't watch the House vote on a nonbinding resolution symbolically rejecting his "surge" of 21,500 additional U.S. troops.
Neither did Snow. The press secretary went to the White House gym for a workout and didn't get back to his office until after the balloting. On Saturday, Senate Democrats--living up to West Wing officials' predictions--failed to bring that same nonbinding resolution to a vote, representing a victory for the administration.
This victory suggests to White House strategists that Republicans in the Senate will serve as a bulwark against unwise actions by the House over the long term.
"Pretty soon Congress is going to have to make a binding commitment to support the troops"
when legislators vote on funding the war, Snow said. White House officials don't think that majority Democrats, in the end, will have the votes or the gumption to vote down the funding.
Since the surge began, Snow says, the Iraqi government has begun improving security operations, stabilizing violent neighborhoods, taking action to equitably divide up oil revenue within Iraq, and improving its performance across the board. This will eventually reduce antiwar feelings, GOP strategists believe.
By Kenneth T. Walsh