NATIONAL SECURITY adviser Stephen Hadley was all over your television set this weekend, with appearances on Meet the Press, Face the Nation, and This Week. (What, too busy to swing by and check in with the guys at Fox?)
Despite the fact that he had almost a full hour of airtime, he said very little of any import; he definitely deserves a "sticking to the talking points" bonus. He told Tim Russert, "We have not failed in Iraq. We will fail in Iraq if we pull [out] our troops now, before we're in a position to help the Iraqis to succeed. If we succeed in Iraq, it will make the country safer." On This Week, Hadley informed George Stephanopoulos that Iraqi prime minister Maliki "basically said . . . Those forces that operate outside of the law and take innocent life have to be brought to justice within the law, and he has started to do that, there are joint operations that have been mounted by coalition forces and Iraqi forces to go after death squad leaders that are causing this, and fueling a lot of this sectarian violence."
He did show a little bit of fire when discussing the leak of a memo he authored for President Bush that took Maliki to task. When Bob Schieffer asked him if this was a planned leak, Hadley retorted "You haven't been hearing that from me. It was outrageous. It was not authorized to leak a memo of that sort on the eve before the president is meeting Prime Minister Maliki is unconscionable. It's an effort to embarrass those two leaders. It could've cast a pall over this meeting, a meeting that was very important to Iraqis and to Americans to chart the future of Iraq. It is a good thing . . . that the memo did not have that effect. It was a very successful meeting, and partly because of the graciousness with which Prime Minister Maliki took this."
While appearing on Face the Nation, he also rejected the notion that the administration would force the Iraqis into a discussion with the Iranians or the Syrians. "Well, the Iraqi government has been talking to the Iranians and the Syrians, and pointing out the various ways in which those two countries have not been helpful. They have been supporting elements within the country that are not supporting the Iraqi government. . . . The problem is not communication. This is not a communications challenge. This is two countries that have a bad set of policies and need to change those policies. The Iraqis have made it clear they would like to be in the lead in conversations with those two countries about Iraq. We obviously respect that. They are a sovereign government, after all." Sen. Joe Lieberman, also appearing on FTN, agreed with Hadley, saying that, "on the question of Iran, I believe that America's a mighty enough nation that we should never fear to talk to anyone. But anyone who believes that Iran and Syria really want to help us to succeed in Iraq, I just think is missing reality. Asking Iran and Syria to help us succeed in Iraq is about like your local fire department asking a couple of arsonists to help put out the fire."
This Week saw Evan Bayh lay out his presidential campaign's foreign policy: "I'd do the opposite of what the president did a month ago when he picked up the phone and called prime minister Maliki and said 'don't worry, we're staying.' I'd pick up the phone and say 'you know what? We're not staying forever. You need to start getting your act together. Decide about the division of oil revenue, the role of religion, the role of provinces versus the central government, the role, if any, for former Baathists. There are only questions you can decide. And if you do, we'll stand by you and give you a chance to make a go of it because we want you to be successful. But if you don't, there's nothing we can do for you.'" He made even less sense when he called for an immediate withdrawal of troops to show that we are serious about getting out of Iraq eventually.
Stephanopoulos also featured an interview with Iowa governor Tom Vilsack, who rejected his questioner's absurd call for a European style tax on gasoline to help end our dependence on Middle Eastern oil. "You have to recognize the reality of America today." In other words, for those of you who live inside the Beltway, Americans aren't going to stop driving to work, or to the store, or for vacation. They'll simply tighten their belts in other areas. Not every locale has the benefit of an excellent system of public transportation like Washington's Metro. Some people have to drive.
In addition to Hadley, Meet the Press featured interviews with Senators Carl Levin and John Warner. In addition to platitudes on Iraq, they also opined on Bush's nominee to replace Rumsfeld as secretary of defense. When asked whether or not he will be confirmed next week, Levin said "I think it's likely he'll be confirmed, but it's very important that there be a thorough process, and I want to give our chairman credit for making sure that there is a thorough process." Warner punted, saying "I think--I say with a great deal of confidence that our committee will do a very thorough job on Tuesday. I hope we can vote the nomination out at the conclusion of a long, open session to be followed by a closed session, and that on Wednesday, there'll be, at the direction of our leadership, a floor debate and a vote."
Fox News Sunday featured interviews with senators Joe Biden and Lindsey Graham, both of whom said they would support Gates's nomination. Graham also laid out his vision for Iraq, and reminded the audience what exactly is at stake in Iraq. "We need to respond to the agenda of our enemy. If we redeploy to a friendly nation under these circumstances, the terrorists will see that as retreat and defeat, and they will come after us in that friendly nation. They will say 'Aha, we got them to break and leave in Iraq, they've gone to this new country [where] they think they are safe. Well we're going to show America you're not safe. If you want to be safe America, leave the region to us. Let us have our way in this region. If you want to be safe, give us Israel.' That's their agenda. So we've got to win in Iraq. And any strategy that unites the country and we lose, I'm against. I'd rather be divided as a nation and win then united as a nation and lose."
Sonny Bunch is assistant editor at THE WEEKLY STANDARD.