Anyone who thought last week's official reports on Iraq would settle or soften the debate over the war was badly mistaken. Instead, the reports have reopened old divisions and led to harsher attacks from all sides.
The biggest political news was the dustup between former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Sen. Hillary Clinton, the two parties' front-runners for their presidential nominations. And Republican Giuliani appears to have gained, at least in the view of Republican insiders, because of his aggressive, swift, and deft attacks on Democrat Clinton and the liberal group MoveOn.org, two nemeses of many conservatives.
Giuliani seemed to be presaging a general-election matchup between him and Clinton, and many conservatives liked what they saw, a GOP strategist told U.S. News this morning. Giuliani called on Clinton to apologize for raising doubts about the veracity of Gen. David Petraeus's testimony before Congress last week and for not condemning a MoveOn ad in the New York Times that called Petraeus "General Betray Us." Giuliani purchased his own ad in the Times and took out a Web ad criticizing Clinton and MoveOn. Clinton responded that Giuliani is wrong to be such a blind supporter of the Iraq war. MoveOn attacked Giuliani for leaving the Iraq Study Group in what the group called a "betrayal of trust," because he didn't have time for the group's deliberations. The former mayor responded by calling MoveOn a "character assassination machine."
In another development, House Minority Leader John Boehner has provoked angry reaction for his comment that billions of dollars in expenses and thousands of lives lost is a "small price" to pay for stopping al Qaeda in Iraq. Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean immediately called for Boehner to apologize for, in Dean's view, insulting the troops and their families. Boehner says his remarks are being distorted.
All this means that Iraq is just as divisive as ever.
"Iraq is the main issue around the country, and it will stay that way," says a Democratic strategist.
--Kenneth T. Walsh