Bloggers debate the newly revealed details of the Iraq Study Group's final report. They also consider Sen. Barack Obama's foray into the evangelical world and Sen.-elect Jim Webb's awkward exchange with President Bush.
Baker's almost-dozen:The New York Times reported last night that the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan commission co-chaired by former Secretary of State Jim Baker and former Indiana Rep. Lee Hamilton, will recommend gradually removing U.S. forces from Iraq, but without a timetable for withdrawal. It will also call for 70,000 American troops to remain in bases in Iraq and for the Bush administration to open up direct talks with Syria and Iran.
Some war critics are encouraged. Left-leaning UCLA professor Mark Kleiman of The Reality-Based Community thinks that the "key point … is that a group including Baker, Meese, Eagleburger, and Simpson is going to publicly admit (having more or less cleared it with the White House) that the course we've been staying is a road to nowhere. Sounds like progress to me."
Other anti-war commentators are less hopeful. Liberal Middle East specialist Blake Hounshell at American Footprints is disheartened by reports that Bush and the Joint Chiefs of Staff oppose the recommendations, adding, "[I]t's possible that Bush is going to say one thing and do another, but it seems more likely that he's just delusional and thinks there's still a pony to be found somewhere." Libertarian opinion journalist Jacob Sullum at Reason's Hit and Run believes the ISG is trying to have it both ways, saying, "[T]the wise elder statesmen in the Iraq Study Group have come up with the perfect solution: pretend to leave."
Hawks are uniformly dissatisfied with the report. "Neolibertarian" Mike Hendrix at Cold Fury accuses the ISG of lacking the resolve needed to win the war on terror, saying, "We have the strongest, most capable military in the world; there can be no doubt whatever about that. And without the will to crush our enemies, all it's really useful for is parades." At Hugh Hewitt's blog, Dean Barnett accuses the ISG of advocating appeasement for Iran: "The Baker Commission report will give them the same feeling that Hitler got in Munich – these men will not fight. They will see a solid chunk of the American body politic eager to sell out an ally while making concessions to our enemies without requiring those enemies to fire a single shot."
After reading Bush's statement ruling out a pullback, centrist freelance journalist Joe Gandelman of The Moderate Voice is not sure whether the Bush administration will agree to the ISG's recommendations: "[Bush] has made pronouncements before (on keeping Donald Rumsfeld, on staying with the Dubai company controlling U.S. ports, etc) where he has changed a seemingly inflexible course before. But if this holds it's likely 2007 will see growing tensions between not just Democrats and the White House but some former members of the Bush 41 administration and members of the Republican party and the White House."
Meeting the preacher man: Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., will speak tomorrow at the Global Summit on AIDS at the Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., which is led by Rick Warren, best-selling author of The Purpose-Driven Life. Many conservative Christians are upset that Warren invited a pro-abortion-rights politician like Obama to his church.
Conservative Christian radio host Ingrid Schlueter at Slice of Laodicea is apoplectic, writing, "As Christians we do not work together with those who believe that the butchery of preborn children should be legal. As people of Christian conscience we do not work with those who can treat human life this way." Evangelical writer Billy Dickson at World Changer News is also outraged, adding, "It is one thing when a political leader comes to church to be taught the Bible, and things of God; it is quite another thing when a Bible teaching church lets a backer of sin in the pulpit."
Liberal Californian Claudio Gallegos at Orange Juice! thinks Obama's and Warren's critics doth protest too much: "Once again these religious zealots are basing their anger on their demented belief that there are only three sins in the world, abortion, gay marriage and being Democrat."
Some are attacking Obama from the left. Progressive political writer Kym Platt of Ask This Black Woman sees Obama's connection with Warren as a "red flag in his bid for the presidency. … It's great that Barack supports a woman's right to choose, but the tenets of his evangelical Christianity are a cause for concern."
Webbed foot in mouth? Sen.-elect Jim Webb, D-Va., had a testy exchange with President Bush at a reception for select freshmen senators and congressmen. After Bush asked about Webb's son, a Marine currently in Iraq, Webb remarked "I'd like to get them out of Iraq, Mr. President." Bush replied, "That's not what I asked you. How's your boy?" Webb countered, "That's between me and my boy, Mr. President."
Noting Webb's criticism of former President Bill Clinton on military issues, right-leaning D.C. attorney Paul Mirengoff of Power Line observes, "Webb seems to get off on disrespecting presidents." But center-leftist Isaac Chotiner of the New Republic's The Plank thinks the exchange reflects better on Webb, quipping, "No word on whether Webb asked Bush how his twins were doing in Argentina."