Barely a week ago, we noted a discernible shift among some Democrats (and their friends in the press) on the troop surge in Iraq, and its prospects for success. Media panelists on Chris Matthews's weekend show warned about the dangers of an early pull-out, and even suggested that Iraq is a front in the wider War on Terror--comments in stark contrast to prevailing MSM attitudes on the conflict, which shaped earlier "Quagmire" and the "Surge Won't Work" Themes."
About the same time, a ranking House Democrat, South Carolina Representative James Clyburn, suggested that a positive report on Iraq from General David Petraeus could cause serious problems for his party, and effectively end efforts to force a pull-out or "de-fund" the war. We viewed Clyburn's comments (along with those of the media pundits) as a veiled warning to Democratic politicians: you'd better get out in front of improving conditions in Iraq, or pay a political price down the road. It's a particularly odious brand of recalibration, but it's how the game in played in Washington.
And sure enough, the political shift is continuing. This AP story details recent praise for the surge--and progress in Iraq--by some of the war's most vocal critics, Democratic Senators Carl Levin of Michigan, Dick Durbin of Illinois and Jack Reed of Rhode Island. According to AP reporter Kimberly Hefling, the "Democrats' choice to acknowledge the military's progress in Iraq signals support for the troops, a message that voters want to hear." In other words, the Democrats are hedging their bets, to save their own political skin.
It's a safe bet that more Democrats will join Levin, Durbin and Reed in the coming weeks, ahead of the Petraeus report. The real question is when will the first Democratic presidential hopeful climb on the "Surge-is-Working" bandwagon, and try to claim credit for its success (by confirming General Petraeus as our top commander in Iraq)? Hillary is the most likely to make that move, and barring bad news from the war zone, it's likely to happen in the coming weeks.
We're also wondering when the GOP will run that first TV ad, chastising Democrats for their on-again/off-again support for the war. Don't hold your breath, given the fact that many Republicans were running for the tall grass just weeks ago, urging a "new approach" in Iraq.