The general confused nearly everyone in the room by trying to square his November assessment (that Baghdad needed no additional troops) with his December assessment (that Baghdad could use an additional two combat brigades) with his current assessment (that five brigades is just right). He settled on the line that the extra three brigades should be used "in reserve" to provide General David Petraeus, the incoming theater commander, with "flexibility." An exasperated Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) remarked that "it's almost like I'm hearing two different wars being described." While it's still difficult to imagine Casey not getting confirmed, only Warner and Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) explicitly offered their support.
And that's where an honest hearing would have made more than a cursory mention of who the president of the United States is. Casey didn't decide to change his position for no reason. For over a year, Bush claimed Casey's train-Iraqis-first strategy as his own -- and, as Casey was quick to point out today, the new escalation strategy still relies on that effort beyond the short term. What changed, as Senator Jack Reed pointed out, is that "there was an election." When the public repudiated Bush on the war via his GOP proxies, Bush began looking to shake up his Iraq strategy, and Casey miraculously realized he was open to more troops after all. Now that Bush has replaced Casey and favored escalation, Casey dutifully favors escalation. It doesn't reflect well on Casey that he's been supine. But it does reflect the basic reality of the situation, which is that Bush is still Bush. Unfortunately, McCain and his colleagues went a long way toward obscuring that reality this morning.