The Heritage Foundation set up a lunch with Washington Examiner reporter/author Bill Sammon, whose new tome The Evangelical President reports that 1)Bush believes Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee (not among history's boldest predictions) and that 2)the Bush White House has personally appealed to both party's candidates to "modulate" their rhetoric and be ready to sustain our presence in Iraq.
"It looks now like Democrats are coming around on Iraq," Sammon said. "Both Clinton and Obama came out against the surge and said it was doomed to fail–people forget that. Earlier in the year Clinton was saying that she'd immediately end the war when she became president. But in the last debate you saw both of them say they'd keep troops in Iraq."
Following up on Radley Balko's column of last week, I asked Sammon if Bush was more interested in electing a Republican successor or a successor who would stay in Iraq to win it.
When you look at Hillary now, it's gradually dawning on the Democratic base that she will not end the Iraq War, that she will continue to prosecute this war in some fashion. There's some amount of buyer's remorse there already. But Bush probably feels that a Republican would be more aggressive prosecuting the war he wants it to be prosecuted.
If you look at the Republican candidates there's not a lot of daylight between President Bush and them on the Iraq War. They've all criticized the misteps by the administration and I think Bush has acknowledged those misteps. But if you look at McCain–people talk like McCain got hurt because he was out front and the biggest backer of the president's Iraq policy, and that's why he imploded. That's total nonsense. Although McCain was the earliest advocate for the surge, there really wasn't any daylight between Bush and Romney, Bush and Rudy, on the prosecution of the Iraq War. Obviously, what happened to McCain is that conservatives disagreed with him on a host of other issues and those chickens came home to roost. If anything the Iraq War was what kept what little support that he had.
"This is an audacious president," Sammon said. "The candidates know there's no way we'll have less than 100,000 troops in Iraq by the time they take over. Bush has basically been able to perpetuate his policy past the end of his term."