First is the little-reported trip Cheney took to Saudi Arabia, described as a 'summons' by concerned leaders there rather than a friendly visit.
Second is the just-leaked administration memo, dated November 8, in which National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley argues that Maliki is-- although well intended-- "either ignorant of what is going on, misrepresenting his intentions, or that his capabilities are not yet sufficient to turn his good intentions into action."
It would be funny if it wasn't tragic. The last two supposed virtues of the Bush administration have crumbled since the election three weeks ago: its strict internal discipline and message control -- leaks are for Democrats! -- and the president's loyalty to his supporters. Now the White House is leaking like a sinking ship. And Bush's loyalty? It's vanished along with his majority in Congress.
First to take the hit was Donald Rumsfeld -- a man who richly deserved his shove under the bus, but still, someone Bush had promised to keep until the end of his term. This week, it's al-Maliki. The president himself began to set up al-Maliki on Tuesday, when he told reporters he'd be asking the besieged Iraqi prime minister for his plans to stop the violence that the U.S. invasion of his country ignited. (. . .)
The most disturbing aspect of the diplomatic carnage is that this was supposed to be the week the president got religion and began reaching out to world leaders to find a solution to the mess he's made in Iraq. His Jordan summit was part of an effort to preempt the work of the Iraq Study Group, to show that Jim Baker isn't the only one who can globe-trot and glad-hand with world leaders. "They want to create some activity on the eve of the Baker commission report so that they can point to the fact that they haven't just been sitting in the Situation Room waiting for Iraq to improve on its own," an administration "advisor" told Time this week.
And it's not just political posturing that's provoking the belated Bush effort. While some Democrats are already protesting the Baker group's probable failure to call for a timeline for troop withdrawal, Vice President Dick Cheney is said to be dead set against its almost certain recommendation that the administration reach out to Iran and Syria. And so the administration is suddenly looking globally for its own answers. The problem? "There's complete bewilderment as to what to do," the advisor told Time.