Paul Greenberg

I liked this humbled George W. Bush better. He isn't glossing over anything, but he's still, yes, holding on to the plow. The best thing he said was addressed to the critics before him:

I respect you and the arguments you have made. We went into this largely united - in our assumptions and in our convictions. And whatever you voted for, you did not vote for failure. Our country is pursuing a new strategy in Iraq, and I ask you to give it a chance.

A chance may be too much to ask after all this time and sacrifice, and after all this president's now undeniable blunders, but some of us, the dwindling number of us still in his corner, respect him for refusing to give up. Like a Democratic president from Missouri at another critical time in a worldwide struggle, the man fights.

There were more impressive words than the president's in the news last Tuesday. They came from the new commander he has chosen in Iraq: Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, who was telling it like it bloody is before the Senate Armed Services Committee:

"The way ahead will be neither quick nor easy, and undoubtedly there will be tough days. We face a determined, adaptable enemy. He will try to wait us out. Any such endeavor is a test of wills, and there are no guarantees."

There never are in war. There are certainly no guarantees Congress will support this new initiative. Even if George W. Bush has finally found his Grant, as the nation's first Republican president eventually did, will Congress support this new general and his new strategy? One senator after another is switching from supporter to opponent of this war.

A study in triangulation, the senator now favored to be the next Democratic presidential nominee listened warily to the new commanding general's testimony, then jumped him. Calculation, thy name is Hillary Rodham Clinton, or Hillary Clinton, or whatever her name is these days.

Having voted for the war, the junior senator but senior triangulator from New York now pushes her chips to the other side of the board. These days, without using the word, she's betting on defeat.

It scarcely matters. If this Grant should somehow, improbably succeed, Sen. Clinton will explain that she was for victory all along. It is not the calculators that matter now, or have ever mattered. It is whether the rest of us will hold on to the plow.


Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.