James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal took on a dispatch by Anne Flaherty of the Associated Press in his daily Best of the Web Today commentary on Thursday. Here's the lead paragraph of an dispatch about Obama's Afghanistan policy:
President Barack Obama appears to have secured what President George W. Bush couldn't: bipartisan support for an unpopular and faltering war.
He was already amazed:
This is a magnificent bit of puffery. When the AP refers to "an unpopular and faltering war," it means two different wars: Iraq in Bush's case and Afghanistan in Obama's. Afghanistan became "an unpopular and faltering war" only after Obama took office -- which is to say that whereas Bush maintained popular and bipartisan support for the Afghan effort throughout his term, Obama managed to lose much of it in less than a year. Thus the AP describes Obama has having succeeded where Bush failed, when in fact it is Obama who has so far failed where Bush succeeded.
Even if you accept the AP's terms of comparison, Bush-Iraq vs. Obama-Afghanistan, it does not say anything all that impressive about Obama. For Bush, maintaining bipartisan support for Iraq would have meant keeping Democrats on board -- and in the end, even though many of them had voted for the war, most saw a partisan advantage in opposing it, which matched their ideological inclination anyway.
For Obama, maintaining bipartisan support for Afghanistan mostly means keeping Democrats on board, as the AP notes:
Anti-war Democrats, who rose to power because of voter opposition to Bush's strategy in Iraq, said they are skeptical that the troop buildup is necessary or will work. But at the same time, party leaders--who were among Obama's biggest supporters in his campaign for president--said it was unlikely that they would try to block the deployments or the money he wants.
It is much easier for Obama to win bipartisan support for a war than it was for Bush because, while either man can attract Republican backing, only Obama can win Democrats by an appeal to party loyalty.
Obama might have found it easier to yield to antiwar extremism and general weariness and bug out of Afghanistan. It is to his credit that he did not. But it is also to Bush's credit that he refused to heed the calls to cut and run from Iraq. At this point the best that can be said for Obama is that he may yet live up to the standard of leadership set by his predecessor.