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Pelosi's Disastrous Miscalculation

The House Democratic leader may have just handed a victory to the Congressional GOP.

3:18 PM, Nov 30, 2005 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
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Today, Nancy Pelosi endorsed withdrawal from Iraq. Her statement is a political opportunity for the GOP.

Until now, it seemed to me more likely than not that Democrats would win back the House in 2006: Bush's numbers are bad; the GOP is getting no credit for a strong economy (which could in any case weaken by a year from now); the Abramoff scandal is going to get bigger; twelve years in charge of the House, and three years in control of all three elected bodies, have created weariness and dissatisfaction with the GOP. All this made me think the 2006 elections could result in a Speaker Pelosi.

I now think that unlikely. Pelosi's endorsement today of the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq makes the House Democrats the party of defeat, the party of surrender. Bush's strong speech today means the GOP is likely to be--if Republican Congressmen just keep their nerve--the party of victory. Now it is possible that the situation in Iraq will worsen over the next year. If that happens, Bush and the GOP are in deep trouble. They would have been if Pelosi had said nothing. But it is much more likely that the situation in Iraq will stay more or less the same, or improve. In either case, Republicans will benefit from being the party of victory.

It goes without saying that Bush should seek victory in Iraq regardless of Congressional elections, and regardless of polling results. But Republicans on the Hill, whose nervousness has in turn rattled some in the White House, should now realize that the die is cast. If, a year from now, Iraq is judged to have been a mistake and to be a disaster, the Democrats will benefit--for that is the position of their leadership. But if Iraq is judged to be a war worth fighting and winning--a war we are proud our soldiers are fighting and which we expect to win--that judgment will benefit the GOP in a way it might not have until Pelosi's statement today.

So all Bush has to do is fight the war. And if he really wants to torment the Democrats--and advance the war effort--he could make Joe Lieberman Secretary of Defense.

--William Kristol