Thursday, July 12, 2007

Yglesias sums it up:

Matt writes:
White House review of White House Iraq policy deems said policy to be successful; White House decides, based on the report, to continue with its same policy.
What was striking was how all the evening network news programs presented the White House's evaluation of each benchmark as the evaluation. As if there were no outside independent entities that could have rendered an impartial review.

UPDATE: Fred Kaplan writes:
... a close look at the 25-page [White House] report reveals a far more dismal picture and a deliberately distorted assessment. The eight instances of "satisfactory" progress are not at all satisfactory by any reasonable measure - or, in some cases, they indicate a purely procedural advance.
That last point about "purely procedural advance". There's a lot of that coming from Bush & Co. when discussing Iraq.

Kaplan concludes: (emp add)
The report card was rigged from the outset by how the White House defined "satisfactory."

The legislation required the president to submit a report "declaring, in his judgment, whether satisfactory progress toward meeting these benchmarks is, or is not, being achieved."

The White House report states, "In order to make this judgment … we … asked the following question: As measured from a January 2007 baseline, do we assess that present trend data demonstrates a positive trajectory, which is tracking toward satisfactory accomplishment in the near term? If the answer is yes, we have provided a 'Satisfactory' assessment; if the answer is no, the assessment is 'Unsatisfactory.' "

Subtle but pernicious wordplay is going on here. "Satisfactory progress" toward a benchmark is very different from "a positive trajectory … toward satisfactory accomplishment." The congressional language requires a satisfactory degree of progress. The White House interpretation allows high marks for the slightest bit of progress - the "positive trajectory" could be an angstrom, as long as it's "tracking toward" the goal; the degree of progress doesn't need to be addressed.

Yet even by this extraordinarily lenient standard, the White House authors could not bring themselves to give a passing grade to the Iraqi government on half of the benchmarks - and the most important benchmarks, at that.


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