Saturday, April 12, 2008

Boy, You Can Say That Again. Boy, You Can...

David Brooks on Jim Lehrer Friday night on the state of the Democratic race:

Frankly, not a lot is happening in the campaign. They keep going. They get more and more exhausted. It just goes on. And finally we'll get a news event in Pennsylvania. We haven't had a news event in quite a while.
And Brooks on Petraeus, Crocker & Iraq:
JIM LEHRER: Petraeus-Crocker, first of all?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, I think you did hear from the questions the increased concern about the cost from the Democrats, also from the Republicans.

But I think there was a crucial moment when Barack Obama was asking questions, and he made -- he said explicitly, "There will be no precipitous withdrawal." And I think people can also see the consequence of that withdrawal, whether they're Democrats and Republicans.

And what struck me was how different the hearings were and the private discussions from the campaign trail, where it's all about, "Let's get out quickly" or, you know, "Let's stay forever."

It is clear what's going to happen. The president will leave behind 100,000 troops. Gates said that he hoped to get it below that by the end of the year; he knows now that's not going to happen. That will allow the next president to reduce it, to some degree, but we'll still have a lot of troops there.

And if the conditions stay as they are in Iraq, I think the expectation is among serious Democratic foreign policy experts we're going to have a lot of troops there for a long time, because the costs of staying are high, the costs of leaving are prohibitive, and there will be a slow, gradual drawdown.

And to me, the temper, the timing of that drawdown will actually not be set in Washington. It will be set in Iraq. If all these truces that now obtain in Iraq continue, then we'll be there. If it blows up, it doesn't matter even if John McCain is president. We're out of there.

JIM LEHRER: How did you read Petraeus' conduct, and his words, and his presentation to the Congress, and of course to the American people?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, I think all of us who've covered him and Ryan Crocker, who equally -- they're the A Team. They're the best we have. And I think they're candid; they're straightforward; they don't over-promise; they get incredibly detail-oriented.

I was just in an interview with Crocker with a group of columnists. And you couldn't get the guy to make a generalization. It's about, "What are you going to do?" "Well, there's this, but then there's that problem. And then we're going to do this. We're going to have the provincial elections."

It's very detail-oriented. It's very execution-oriented, though they both fervently believe that, if we get out too soon, the war will not the end, the war will escalate, there will be genocide, they will be a terrorist state.
Mr. Brooks is far from perfect.

But our love affair with his thinking is in no danger of ending anytime soon.