The war in Iraq has gone from bad to worse. And it's approaching the hopeless phase. The United States has now been involved longer than it battled World War II, and the sectarian war has become a civil war.
With that dire situation as a backdrop, President Bush is meeting Prime Minister (in name only) Maliki this week in Jordan. Iraq is too dangerous. It is time for a showdown with Maliki and his timid leadership.
Bush has no alternative but to play the heavy in his exchanges with Maliki. The Iraqis have to understand that we are no longer willing to be in a shooting gallery between the Shiites and the Sunnis with the Kurds happily watching them kill each other.
Bush must recognize that his dream of a democracy in Iraq is a nightmare. It was always such, but the stubborn Texan would never budge. At least his father and his aides knew when to quit and not occupy a distant land.
A military victory is impossible. A political solution seems distant but can be achieved if the president's team ceases to talk about this "victory." The president says he is willing to listen to alternatives after the "thumping" the voters handed his party on November 7.
But his body language doesn't match his words.
The patience of the American people is falling apart. The firing of Donald Rumsfeld at the Pentagon raised hopes but angered some Republicans because it was not done sooner. Vice President Cheney, a pal of Rumsfeld's, reportedly fought the decision.
Cheney may be the last person to turn out the lights in Iraq. He's the only vice president in several decades with no interest in running for president on his own. Of course, it wouldn't matter if he did. He would be a joke as an announced candidate, more unpopular than Bush and with no real standing with the voters.
He is, in a word, irrelevant.
However, as a man who never engaged in combat, he is willing to send more sons and daughters into the line of fire. John McCain, now that he has burning presidential ambitions, has joined the "we need more troops there" chorus.
The Bush team is moving closer every day into a deeper hole in a country gripped by hate for warring religions and for us.
A starting point for Bush is to give Maliki this stern message: "We have done our part and more. It is high time for you to do yours. It is your country without Saddam. We are close to the point of getting out of here."