George Bush was twice elected governor of Texas and re-elected to the presidency, but today's vote in Iraq may be the most important election of his life, for as Iraq goes, so goes the rest of the Bush presidency and his legacy. Iraq is not his Vietnam, where we blundered into a colonial war; nor was it ever. But as with Vietnam, Iraq hangs over everything, a factor to be considered now on every issue and initiative. Whether it is finding money for domestic programs or forging alliances abroad, we must now ask, as we did during Vietnam, how does this affect the war? How does the war affect this?
The president may want Social Security reform, but it won't happen unless Iraq stabilizes in the next six to nine months. A Republican Congress trying to justify an ever-longer war will be in no mood to make the hard, unpopular choices that will be necessary to reform Social Security; not with congressional elections looming.
The president went to Iraq believing Saddam Hussein had weapons that threatened our security. When those reports proved false, he was left with an unsavory choice: withdrawal and leave the country in chaos or stay until Iraq could build a government and train a force able to restore order. He put everything on the line: his presidency and his legacy. If he succeeds and does put Iraq on the road to democracy, he'll be remembered as a great president. If he doesn't, he won't.