Peggy Noonan: Bush must lead by admitting the anti-war crowd was right

We’ve gotten more comments on the headline for this piece than any other item thus far, which I’ll take as my cue to bring it down here to Broadway. We need some basic consensus going forward, she says, and the first step towards that is Bush sucking it up, acknowledging things are a mess, and asking for help from the left to make the best of it. I think that gives war opponents both too much credit and too little. The hardline Bush-haters will never reconcile with him, a fact she seems here to acknowledge but ultimately, I guess, doesn’t:

From the pro-war forces, the surge supporters and those who supported the Iraq invasion from the beginning, what is needed is a new modesty of approach, a willingness to admit it hasn’t quite gone according to plan. A moral humility. Not meekness–great powers aren’t helped by meekness–but maturity, a shown respect for the convictions of others.

What we often see instead, lately, is the last refuge of the adolescent: defiance. An attitude of Oh yeah? We’re Lincoln, you’re McClellan. We care about the troops and you don’t. We care about the good Iraqis who cast their lot with us. You’d just as soon they hang from the skids of the last helicopter off the embassy roof. They have been called thuggish. Is this wholly unfair?

The antiwar forces, the surge opponents, the “I was against it from the beginning” people are, some of them, indulging in grim, and mindless, triumphalism. They show a smirk of pleasure at bad news that has been brought by the other team. Some have a terrible quaking fear that something good might happen in Iraq, that the situation might be redeemed. Their great interest is that Bushism be laid low and the president humiliated. They make lists of those who supported Iraq and who must be read out of polite society. Might these attitudes be called thuggish also?

They might, just as they might also be called irretrievable and not worth bothering about. For the more principled war opponents, though, what good will flattering their egos do? They don’t want to be told they’re right, they want to get American troops out of what they consider a hopeless situation. Noonan makes it sound like a lovers’ quarrel, where a little cajoling might heal the rift enough to go forward:

His foes feel a tight-jawed bitterness. They believe it was his job not to put America in a position in which its security is imperiled; they resent his invitation to share responsibility for outcomes of decisions they opposed. And they resent it especially because he grants them nothing–no previous wisdom, no good intent–beyond a few stray words here and there…

Would it help if the president were graceful, humble, and asked for help? Why, yes. Would it help if he credited those who opposed him with not only good motives but actual wisdom? Yes. And if he tried it, it would make news. It would really, as his press aides say, break through the clutter.

Exit question: How’s it going to break through “clutter” like this?