“A TONAL SHIFT”….This pisses me off:

As violence declines in Baghdad, the leading Democratic presidential candidates are undertaking a new and challenging balancing act on Iraq: acknowledging that success, trying to shift the focus to the lack of political progress there, and highlighting more domestic concerns like health care and the economy.

….Lately, as the killing in Baghdad and other areas has declined, the Democratic candidates have been dwelling less on the results of the troop escalation than on the lack of new government accords in Iraq — a tonal shift from last summer and fall when American military commanders were preparing to testify before Congress asking for more time to allow the surge to show results.

A “tonal shift”? Is this code for “they’re saying the same thing as always but there’s not much of a story in that”?

Look, if Patrick Healy has some actual evidence that Democrats weren’t talking about political progress earlier this year but they are now, then fine. It’s a legitimate story. But if he doesn’t have any such evidence — and I suspect he doesn’t since there’s not even a hint of it in the story itself — then he should knock off the tonal analysis and stick to journalism.

Political progress has always been the justification for the surge. When he announced it last January, President Bush explicitly said that the point of reducing violence in Baghdad was to give the Iraqi government “breathing space” to move ahead with political reconciliation. Political progress wasn’t just a fringe benefit, it was the whole purpose of the surge: “If the Iraqi government does not follow through on its promises,” he said, “it will lose the support of the American people — and it will lose the support of the Iraqi people.”

The reduction in violence in Iraq is great news. But it’s not a “shift” to say that political reconciliation has always been the real goal of the surge. It has always been the real goal of the surge.

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