The lights were on, but…

THE LIGHTS WERE ON, BUT….House Speaker Dennis Hastert, at the request of the president, made a surprise visit to Baghdad over the weekend. Arriving at 4 am, Hastert said he was impressed with the number of lights he saw.

The speaker and his party saw it as a sign of progress, of how much power had been restored in a city known for frequent blackouts, according to Hastert’s spokesman, Ron Bonjean, who accompanied the speaker.

“It was one of our first impressions, so many lights shining brightly,” Bonjean said.

Now, the easy response is that some electricity in Baghdad is hardly indicative of “progress” in Iraq. Indeed, considering that Hastert’s visit coincided with Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki lashing out at American forces in Iraq, it’s probably best if the House Speaker doesn’t dwell too much on light bulbs.

That said, the Center for American Progress noted a Brookings Institution Iraq Index (.pdf), published the day before Hastert landed, that highlighted a different conclusion.

In Apr. 2006, residents in Baghdad received an average of four hours of electricity per day, compared to pre-war levels of 16-24 hours per day.

Maybe Hastert caught Baghdad on a good day?