So much for "the course."
According to the Iraq Study Group, it turned out to be a failure. Bush's policy, the Baker Group concluded, "is not working" and is "no longer viable." The situation in Iraq is "grave and deteriorating." The "ability of the United States to influence events is diminishing."
A drastic change of course is required. "Our ship of state has hit rough waters," the Group's co-chairman former Democratic Congressman Lee Hamilton said. "It must now chart a new way forward."
I could have told you that.
My teenage children could have told you that.
Anti-war activists have been saying as much for months, if not years.
Anyone who has turned on a television in the last six months should have been able to tell you that, even if the Defense Department has, according to the same report, been underplaying the severity of the violence and the deterioration of the situation in Iraq.
If you hadn't figured it out yet, you could also take account of the fact that on the day the report was released, 11 American soldiers were killed in Iraq, making it the deadliest day yet of this long year for our troops.
So if the Iraq Study Group, at one level, is telling us nothing that our kids couldn't tell us, that we haven't been hearing, seeing and, in some cases (George Bush's, perhaps) trying very diligently to ignore, what's the big deal?
The big deal is this: The conclusion has now become inescapable. There is no other side anymore.
On Tuesday, it was Defense Secretary-designate Robert Gates who testified in plain English that the president's policy had failed.
On Wednesday, it was the most respected Republican veteran of the Bush 41 Administration, James Baker, who reached the same conclusion.
The point is not that we are learning something new.
The point is not even that we are finally hearing the truth from some of the powers-that-be in Washington.
The point is that there is no room to spin anymore.
No more dancing with the stars.
There was a time when Democrats were afraid to say out loud what Republicans are now finally being forced to admit.
There was a time when the conservative talk-meisters would accuse you of not supporting the troops if you said out loud what Jim Baker said to the president yesterday, what Robert Gates said to the Senate on Tuesday.
There was a time when reasonable people could disagree. That time has passed.
The question used to be: Who will tell the president?
Now that he has been told, will he listen? Will he do anything about it?
But that is only part of the story. It isn't just George Bush who has run out of excuses, justifications, counterarguments and "on the other hands."
Democrats have no excuse anymore, either.
The handwriting doesn't get any clearer. The country said the policy was a failure when it voted with its feet in November. Now it's the Republican establishment's turn. What are the Democrats afraid of?
If Jim Baker is saying the policy is a failure, it's time for the Democrats to unite, make this their top priority and say it, too. If Jim Baker is saying it's time for withdrawal, it's time for Hillary to say it, too. If a bipartisan commission is calling the president's policy a failure in no uncertain terms, then the opposition party should be at least as strong, or what's the point of calling them the opposition?
Profiles in courage are no longer required. There is no longer any political risk, any issue of being tough enough or too soft. Baker has written the script. Baker has provided the cover. No one is better at it.
The next steps may well be difficult and dangerous, but recognizing where we are today is in itself painfully easy. Just ask a 13-year-old. Or James Baker.
To find out more about Susan Estrich and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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