WHO’S THE TROUBLEMAKER?….David Broder, in the middle of a paean to the comity and bipartisanship of the ISG commission members yesterday, let slip a rare discordant note:
Despite all the goodwill, several of the members recounted that toward the end of their deliberations, one commissioner ? not someone who had served in Congress, they noted ? said he would not sign the report if one part was not removed.
James A. Baker III, the former Republican secretary of state, glanced at his co-chairman, former Democratic representative Lee Hamilton, and calmly said to the dissenter, “Okay, don’t.”
A little later, others recalled, the dissenting member asked to return to the disputed passage and, in short order, agreed to slightly modified language.
Hell, man, what kind of a tease is this? Who was the deviationist? What was the objection? What trivial wording change managed to shame him into coming back into the fold? Name some names!
The five candidates are William Perry, Sandra Day O’Connor, William Meese, Vernon Jordan, and Lawrence Eagleburger. O’Connor isn’t a “he,” and this doesn’t sound like Vernon Jordan’s style. Nor does Meese seem like a guy who’d throw down an ultimatum to his old Reagan-era buddy James Baker. So my guess is that it was either Perry or Eagleburger.
But which section of the report was so foul that it prompted this outrageous breach of bipartisan bonhomie? Inquiring minds want to know.
The Iraq Study Group was starting final deliberations last month when the issue threatened to disrupt the careful consensus its members had tried to forge. Former defense secretary William J. Perry had drafted a proposal calling for a timetable to withdraw U.S. troops, according to accounts by insiders. Former secretary of state James A. Baker III resisted a firm date, wanting to leave that to the president.
“I’m not going to sign anything that is going to paper over the problem,” Perry said.
“Well, if that’s the case, that’s the case,” Baker replied.
That actually makes sense, since the report obviously calls for a timeline for withdrawal but doesn’t say it’s calling for a timeline for withdrawal. The result is the kind of mush you’d expect from two members trying to fudge a fundamental disagreement: “In the end, though, Baker and Perry walked off together to settle their differences rather than let them split the commission. With suggestions from other members, they crafted careful language that they both could support, a recommendation to pull out nearly all U.S. combat units by early 2008 ? a goal, not a timetable, but a date nonetheless.”