Bush: "We're not winning, we're not losing"

The president changes his tone on Iraq, conceding for the first time that the U.S. is not winning there.

Published December 20, 2006 2:50PM (EST)

More big news from yesterday's Washington Post interview with President Bush: For the first time, Bush has conceded that we are not winning in Iraq. (Someone tell Ann Coulter.) He does still say, however, that we're "not losing."

As the Post notes, this marks a major shift in terminology from less than two months ago; as the midterm election approached, Bush was still telling reporters, "Absolutely, we're winning." But Bush doesn't attribute this to any change in the situation on the ground in Iraq -- rather, responding to questions from Post reporters, he resorted to arguing tenses. Discussing what he meant by the earlier comment, Bush said, "That was an indication of my belief we're going to win."

Bush also said, according to the Post, that he "did not interpret the Democratic election victories six weeks ago as a mandate to bring U.S. involvement in Iraq to an end. Instead, he said, he considers the outcome a call to find new ways to make the mission there succeed." That's a remarkable conclusion, coming as it does one day after a new CNN poll showed 54 percent of the country wants American troops out of Iraq within a year and only 48 percent believe an American victory there is still possible.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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George W. Bush Iraq Middle East War Room Washington Post