Rich Lowry

It seems clear already that Bush's Iraq policy will undergo adjustments, with leaks about setting benchmarks for Iraqi performance, with the Baker/Hamilton commission working on policy recommendations and with speculation that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld will step down. It would be perverse for Bush to take the political hit from being associated with "staying the course" this November, when that isn't what he intends to do after the election.

For a president who talks so much about being a wartime leader and whose administration so emphasizes the prerogatives of the executive, Bush has been an oddly passive commander in chief. He often seems to be run by his government rather than the other way around. He rarely fires anyone. His deference to his generals is near total. He hasn't acted at key moments to resolve debilitating bureaucratic battles within his administration. He might be the "decider," but his deciding hasn't reached down far enough to see that his strategic decisions are effectively implemented.

There is a crisis in Iraq for all to see. Bush has to make it plain that he sees it too, and that his government is going to react to it. If he doesn't, his admirable resolve risks becoming a millstone around the neck of himself and his party.

Rich Lowry

Rich Lowry is author of Legacy: Paying the Price for the Clinton Years .
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