Throughout the debate over Congress's troop-funding bill, one of the most oft-repeated talking points from Bush and his remaining allies is that they don't want to set "artificial timetables" for the troops or for the Iraqi government's progress in meeting its various goals. But isn't "artificial timetable" kind of redundant? And doesn't the fact that Bush would use such a redundancy kind of indicate how he still just doesn't get it?
I mean, the whole point of a timetable or a deadline is to give someone a date for doing something that they wouldn't meet if left to their own devices. If my boss drops a stack of manuscripts on my desk and doesn't give me any instruction other than to copy-edit them, I might get it done in, say, two weeks, depending on how much I allow factors to intrude (such as other projects, meetings, the degree to which I scrutinize and chop up the words on the page, or my general scatterbrainedness). But if she has to have it in one week, then she'll tell me so. Obviously one week isn't necessarily the amount of time I'd give myself if I had the choice, but that's when my boss needs it, so I don't have a choice.
Or, to look at it another way, what would constitute a non-artificial timetable? I guess the only way would be for my boss to somehow intuitively divine that, based on my existing workload and editing M.O., I would "naturally" get through the stack of manuscripts in two weeks -- and then tell me I could take two weeks to do it. In which case there was no point in setting a deadline to begin with.
What Bush wants to do in this situation is drop the manuscripts on Maliki's desk and give him the "whenever you get around to it" instruction -- in other words, the exact same thing he's been doing for four years. He doesn't have the guts to hold anybody to anything more than that, and this "artificial timetables" complaint is just to cover up for the fact that he doesn't want to set any deadlines or timetables period. The Democrats' funding bill, on the other hand, aims to make him. And that's what this debate really boils down to -- "You need to get this done" versus "Hey, we'll stay here until you get around to it." Again, a deadline is a date you set for someone that they probably wouldn't meet if it was just left up to them -- thus without a deadline, "just leave it up to them" is more or less Bush's official policy. Is that something you feel comfortable with?