Via Ramesh Ponnuru, Robert Novak has an interesting report on a recent meeting between Stephen Hadley and "a half-dozen senior Republican senators:"

Hadley called his expedition a "scouting trip," leading one senator to ask what he was seeking. It was not advice on how to escape from Iraq. Instead, Hadley appeared interested in how previous supporters had drifted from Bush's course.

In the process, he planted seeds of concern. Some senators were left with the impression that the White House still does not recognize the scope of the Iraq dilemma. Worse yet, they see the president running out the clock until April, when a depleted U.S. military will be blamed for the fiasco. ...

Based on what Hadley said, one senator concluded "they just do not recognize the depth of the difficulty they are in." That difficulty entails running out of troops in nine months. Hadley increased latent fears of the U.S. military being made the fall guy--a concern shared by many retired and some active senior officers, including a current infantry division commander.

Questions, questions. Does Hadley genuinely not understand why some senators might be less than thrilled with the war? Did Novak ask any of the GOP "graybeards" why they would keep handing a blank check to an administration that, in their words, doesn't "recognize the depth of the difficulty they are in"? And would the White House really try to blame the military for the failure of the surge, seeing as how any third grader could see through this dodge? (As Ponnuru says, "If the military's 'depleted,' isn't that the administration's fault?") Granted, that's never stopped them before...

--Bradford Plumer