When Congress returns to work soon, the White House is confident it can thwart any Democratic move to at least start a troop withdrawal from Iraq. That confidence may be misplaced in the case of Congress and almost surely in the case of a public worn out by the call for patience.
President Bush has asked for an additional $50 billion for the war on top of the over $400 billion spent or wasted. It amounts to a defiant act, daring Democrats to risk the tag of being disloyal to the troops.
Bush is not impressed with the warnings from veteran GOP Sens. John Warner, Richard Lugar, or Pete Domenici, all of whom have called for a change in strategy. Bush quietly dismisses them while an aide trots out to call them respected senators.
Every time Bush points to a positive step in the recent surge, a new revelation erases it. For example, the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office reported that the Iraqis had missed 15 of 18 benchmarks set for the government there. While the U.S. military has achieved some progress, the Iraqis have been lax, to say the least.
The nation will almost surely get some cheerful news when Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker deliver their long-awaited report in mid-September. It will give the White House just enough to call for a continuation of the current strategy.
Democrats and opposition Republicans should not be intimidated by Bush's bold words. It is one thing for a leader to be stubborn, quite another to take the nation over a cliff.
Leaders in both parties know Bush is relying on the presidential veto to have his way.
If there ever was a time for members of Congress to show some backbone, it is now. If a commander in chief refuses to respond to a huge majority of citizens and a majority in Congress, he deserves a vote of no confidence.
The country has reached a turning point: Follow Bush and a dwindling number of generals who believe he's right, or finally rein him in.
We already have a good idea of how future historians will rate the presidency of George W. Bush. But for us, and the here and now, restraining him is an absolute necessity.