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The Conditions Of Petraeus' Iraq Report

General David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, is seen with a member of the Amariyah Volunteers, former insurgents who have joined forces with the U.S. and Iraqi troops to fight al-Qaida, in west Baghdad, Iraq on Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2007.
AP Photo/Steven R. Hurst
Weekly commentary by CBS Evening News chief Washington correspondent and Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer.

Sixteen years on Face The Nation has taught me one thing: When I ask a question and guests start laying out conditions such as "first let me tell you," or "the real questions is," or "it is important to put that in context," I know we're headed down the old rabbit trail that will take us anywhere but to a straight answer.

When people want to answer, they do so quickly, directly and clearly. When they don't we get all those conditions and lectures about the importance of context.

So excuse me for getting a little suspicious after hearing the White House is proposing some new conditions on the delivery of General Petraeus' long-awaited report on progress in Iraq – conditions such as the White House wanting the general to deliver the report to Congress behind closed doors while cabinet officers do the talking in public.

And, suddenly we're told the general won't actually write the report but that his thoughts will be incorporated in a summary prepared by the White House.

Mind you, this is the report the president has said over and over that he will use to decide where we go from here in Iraq.

Over and over, we've been told not to rush to judgment until we hear from the general.

Now we're hearing all these new conditions.

Maybe it's because I've been dragged down the old rabbit trail too many times by too many people with something to hide, but this doesn't sound like we're headed to a straight answer.

No, this sounds like anything but. And that is a real shame.

E-mail Face the Nation.

By Bob Schieffer