Cutting and running? That's the other guys, sort of, kind of, I think

Tony Snow on plans for a phased withdrawal from Iraq.

By Tim Grieve

Published June 26, 2006 3:49PM (EDT)

As we noted earlier today, Democrats are smarting over having spent a week getting beat up for proposing a phased withdrawal from Iraq only to learn afterward that Gen. George Casey may be proposing ... a phased withdrawal from Iraq. But the Democrats aren't the only ones who find themselves in an awkward spot just now. At this morning's gaggle, White House press secretary Tony Snow was asked how Republicans could justify attacking Democrats for pushing withdrawal when one of the president's top commanders apparently plans to do exactly the same thing.

As the exchange below indicates, Snow had a hard time explaining.

Question: Tony, you had Democrats over the weekend -- Sen. Kerry, Sen. Boxer -- saying that even the framework of a plan would kind of fly in the face of Republican [claims that] the Democrats want to cut and run. Do you have any response to that? I mean, the president, himself, has implied it, Rove has said it outright.

Snow: There's still a pretty significant difference between what Sen. Kerry or even Sen. Levin had proposed and what Gen. Casey is talking about, simply because one is driven by a calendar and the other is driven by events on the ground. So there is a significant difference.

Question: But doesn't Gen. Casey -- like, part one of his plan has a significant number of troops, two combat brigades, coming out in September. Doesn't that give the enemy --

Snow: Well, actually, he has one, and it -- you know, again, this is not, I believe the way, at least it was reported, is you've got two brigades by the end of the year, September being short of the end of the year. But I may be misreading it. In any event, you've got to keep in mind that this is not a statement of policy. Again, Gen. Casey keeps in mind a number of scenarios. You're talking about scenarios here ... And so I would caution very strongly against everybody thinking, well, they're going to pull two brigades out. Maybe they will, maybe they won't. That really does depend upon a whole series of things that we cannot, at this juncture, predict. But Gen. Casey -- again, I would characterize this more in terms of scenario building, and we'll see how it proceeds.

A few minutes later, a reporter asked Snow if any of Casey's "scenarios" might involve a significant increase in U.S. troop levels. "You know," Snow said, "here's the thing about military plans: You don't disclose them. So rather than trying to talk about various scenarios for typical reasons, Gen. Casey will have a number of scenarios in mind for differing situations on the ground. As I said, as conditions on the ground change, he will adjust those plans. But I'm certainly not going to announce in advance anything that he may have in mind for the president, or that he may be recommending -- just don't do that in a time of war."

Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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