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Credit Where Due

Watching yesterday’s incredibly boring hearing for hours, then doing something else, then turning back the still-on hearing and watching it continue for more hours I was gripped by the sense that the Democratic leadership had really messed up. It would have been much better, I felt, to make Petraeus and Crocker feel the sting of either Senate Armed Services or Senate Foreign Relations, both of whose Democratic caucuses contain both stars and key role players who could have really gone to war.

From the vantage of the morning after, though, leading with the House — and in particularly, with the mind-numbing combo-hearing format — may have been a stroke of genius. The was was incredibly unpopular on the morning of September 10, 2007 so the Republicans needed not just a solid performance, but some kind of show-stopping one from Crocker and Petraeus to turn things around. A dull hearing guaranteed that the game would end in a draw, and a draw is a political win for the Democrats. The Senate Foreign Relations hearing that’s about to stop should feature more interesting moments — what will Hagel say? how will Obama do? etc. — but it’s a second day story.

The “surge” itself was hail mary strategy, and it didn’t work. Then we had the surge of dog and pony shows, but that didn’t bring anyone other than Michael O’Hanlon over to Bush’s side. Now the surge of testimony has begun, and it looks to be, in essence, another dud. Something the administration’s dead-ender supporters can feel good about, but that’s not going to change the public’s accurate perception that if ever there were a time when this policy could have been saved, it came and went years ago.

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