George W. Bush may not want to talk about "staying the course" in Iraq anymore, but he's not exactly throwing the tiller in a different direction, either. In an interview with wire service reporters today, Bush said that Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney are both doing "fantastic jobs" and that he wants them to remain on duty through the rest of his second term.
The president said that he doesn't foresee any immediate change in troop levels in Iraq, explaining that generals on the ground have assured him that "they've got what they can live with." That sounds more like a plan for treading water than for winning the "decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century," especially when you compare it with what Bush said just a week ago -- that he'd "send more troops to Iraq if General Casey says I need more troops in Iraq to achieve victory."
Notice a theme here: In neither case did Bush say unequivocally that he's giving the generals the number of troops that they're requesting. The White House might do any number of things in the days before the election. Sending a lot more troops into an unpopular war probably isn't one of them.
Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.