Co-Bloggers: Katie & Bob Preview The Speech


Chief Washington Correspondent Bob Schieffer and Katie attended a briefing this morning at the White House, giving a preview of tonight's speech. Here's their report of what they were told.

The plan the president will outline tonight will call for increasing the number of American military troops in Iraq by more than 20,000, a move that will force the administration to extend the tours of duty for many troops in Iraq by two to four months, according to White House officials.

In a briefing for network anchors, officials said it may also require calling some reservists and members of the National Guard to active duty.

They also said the President will acknowledge that the current policy has failed. They said the President would characterize the policy as "not working, that what was happening was not acceptable to the American people or to him."

These officials said the President was aware that he was going against public opinion and congressional sentiment.

Those who know the President said he knew he was "sticking his neck out."

But the President is known to feel that the country can't afford to fail and, while he recognizes there is a consensus on that, no one—including those in Congress—has come up with a solution.

Officials say the current plan will divide Baghdad into nine neighborhoods with the majority of Iraqi military taking charge, supported by smaller numbers of U.S. forces.

Their aim is to reassure Iraqis that their own forces will be providing security.

While the President will outline his plan tonight to the American people, he will also make it clear that American patience is not unlimited. His message to the Maliki government and the Iraqi military will essentially be, "You have to perform."

People who have been around the President in recent days say he has had it with the Iraqi government, and has told them in no uncertain terms that things have to change, that they must decide if they can live together, that they must stand up and that these messages have been delivered directly to Maliki.

White House officials also think the internal dynamics of Iraq may be working in their favor--that if Maliki can't step up to the plate, there is competition, so he's feeling the pressure externally and internally. They also believe that the pressure Congress is putting on the President will actually be helpful, and that it drives home to Maliki the pressure President Bush is facing.

These officials say the main thing the Maliki government needs to understand is that they could lose their primary benefactor, George Bush, if they don't pick up their share of the burden. An interesting back story, by the way, is this: the White House says this is Maliki's plan that was presented to the President Bush in Amman, Jordan. It was reviewed by General Casey, who added the additional US troops because the Iraqis, he felt, were not up to speed.

The President, these officials say, knows he will get some opposition from Congress, but is banking on their support because, if they cut off funding, he believes opponents will be seen as putting American troops in harm's way. If Americans see it that way, the White House will spell it for them.

When asked about a "Plan B," White House officials paused and said: "Maybe you should ask the Iraqi's about their Plan B." Clearly the onus is on Maliki and the Iraqi government, and White House officials continue to insist they believe this latest strategy, unlike its previous plans, will work.