Joe Klein Embraces Defeat

In a new column for TIME, pundit Joe Klein declares that President Bush is “(still) winning the war at home.” By that Klein means that Bush is beating his opponent in the domestic debate about Iraq. Klein’s evidence? Bush called the new Iraqi Defense minister an “interesting cat” and Zarqawi “a dangerous dude.” Also, Klein saw Bush strut.

Klein doesn’t mention that recent polling found just 35 percent of Americans approve of Bush’s handling of the Iraq war, nearly 60 percent support reducing the number of troops and 53 percent support a timetable for withdrawal.

Klein reports that, last week, “Bush and Rove were reminding voters that the choice would be between the Democratic strategy of ‘cut and run’ and the Republican war against Islamic ‘fascists,’ as the President called them.” Klein calls variations of this strategy “scurrilous,” “inaccurate” and “lethally incomplete.”

Then, he uses the same argument. Here’s how Klein describes the options of those who oppose Bush’s strategy in Iraq:

The political option is to embrace “cut and run”; call for an immediate withdrawal, as Kerry did; and hope the public is…sick of Bush and sick of the war…But embracing defeat is a risky political strategy, especially for a party not known for its warrior ethic. In fact, the responsible path is the Democrats’ only politically plausible choice: they will have to give yet another new Iraqi government one last shot to succeed.

This is the same false choice presented by Bush and Rove. Those who want a new direction in Iraq and a timeline for withdrawal are not “embracing defeat.” The way to embrace defeat, as the last three years have demonstrated, is to stick with this administration’s approach.


Opponents of the President’s strategy have laid out a serious alternative strategy for success in Iraq and against terrorist networks worldwide. It deserves to be treated seriously by people like Joe Klein. (For details, read CAP’s plan for success and a phased withdrawal of U.S. troops, Strategic Redeployment 2.0.)Greg Sargent and Duncan Black have more.