04/23/2007 08:45 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Iraq: Good Deadlines and Bad Deadlines

It's crystal clear. There are good deadlines and bad deadlines.

Defense Secretary Gates went to Iraq and talked turkey, the Washington Post reports.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, unsatisfied with the pace of political reconciliation in Iraq, laid down an implicit deadline Friday by urging Iraqi leaders to pass key laws by summer while repeating his warning that U.S. troops will not patrol Iraqi streets indefinitely.

Presumably, that's good. Gates works for President Bush, right?

But if Congress sets a goal for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, that's bad.

AP reports:

Bush, confident of enough votes to sustain his veto, was unambiguous in his response. "I will strongly reject an artificial timetable (for) withdrawal and/or Washington politicians trying to tell those who wear the uniform how to do their job," he told reporters.

So, good for Defense Secretary Gates to set deadlines, bad for "Washington politicians" to do so.

Of course, the "Washington politicians" that the President Bush is referring to are the democratically elected Members of the United States Congress. We live in a democracy, not a military dictatorship, so it is precisely the "Washington politicians" who should be giving orders to "those who wear the uniform," not the other way around.

And if the president of the United States is not himself a "Washington politician," who is?