The president went before the cameras Sunday to discuss two disasters -- one natural, one man-made. After a few words about the federal government's plans to respond to Hurricane Katrina, George W. Bush turned to the storm he's created for himself -- and for everyone else -- in Iraq.
Unnamed sources in the Bush administration were admitting over the weekend that the draft Iraqi constitution is a major disappointment: It lacks the support of the Sunnis, it opens the door to repression of women and it may leave the Shiites free to break off much of oil-rich southern Iraq into a nearly autonomous province friendly to Iran. The New York Times takes a look inside the Bush administration today and finds "deep regret and frustration" that the administration's work on the constitution -- including intervention by the president himself -- has produced so little. One senior State Department official said the administration is "disappointed" in the lack of consensus around the constitution, and he said that he'd understand if Sunnis vote against it in October.
So what does the president have to say for himself? It's "hard work," but "we're making good progress." To be fair, Bush acknowledged, albeit in a minimizing way, that there "have been disagreements amongst the Iraqis about this particular constitution." He acknowledged that the violence in Iraq is likely to get worse before it gets better. And he did manage to get through an eight-minute speech on Iraq without mentioning 9/11 even once. But the president didn't acknowledge that the draft constitution -- even if it passes -- will create something less than the Western-style democracy he had envisioned for Iraq, nor did he give any hint that the breakdown in the constitutional process might be a cause to reassess what is possible in Iraq and how many U.S. troops should die in pursuit of it.
Bush may be able to avoid those kinds of questions down in Crawford, but they'll be waiting for him -- or at least for members of his administration -- when he gets back to Washington next week. Republican Sen. John Warner, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, tells the Times that he'll be calling Donald Rumsfeld to testify as soon as the Senate is back in session. Warner said that the "level of concern" about Iraq is "gradually rising" in Congress. And while he said that Congress isn't likely to demand an immediate withdrawal of troops any time soon, "there is always a tipping point."
As of today, 1,877 Americans have died in the war.