Open thread: Bush's speech on Iraq; Update: "An enduring relationship"; Update: Video highlights added

9 p.m. ET across the dial. We’ll probably have video later so we might as well open the thread now. Sound off if you’re watching. The cat’s out of the bag — 5,700 troops home by Christmas plus the rest of the surge brigades to follow by next summer if all goes well. The Financial Times sums up the political value of the testimony this week: “By embracing Gen Petraeus’s plans, Republicans can now argue that they too are in favour of bringing troops home – but in a more orderly and responsible fashion than the Democrats.” Indeed. It’s a variation of “declare victory and go home”: declare progress and withdraw the guys you had to withdraw anyway due to manpower constraints. Politico has excerpts from the speech; the key phrase is “return on success,” which is itself a variation on “as they stand up, we will stand down.”

The Democrats say they’re close to breaking the filibuster on Webb’s proposal to mandate set periods of time between troop deployments. It failed in July. If it passes now, it would force a partial withdrawal by leaving the Pentagon unable to maintain the pre-surge troop levels while complying with the law. Bush will veto it, of course, and will sustain political damage from people wanting to know why he won’t guarantee the troops a fixed period of rest between tours. That’s what this is about, but it has the advantage of possibly getting the Dems beyond the psychological hurdle of 60 votes. The first step in an incremental process, according to their plan.

Silky bought two minutes of airtime tonight on MSNBC to respond to Bush in his own version of Rudy’s half-assed war-as-politics gambit. I’ll have the full clip later but you can watch the first 30 queasy seconds here.

Exit question: It’s unusual that the full text of Bush’s remarks hasn’t been released yet. Is he going to surprise us somehow? With an attack on MoveOn, maybe?

Update: Bret Baier is reporting outside the White House. You can hear protesters setting off air horns to try to intrude on Bush as he speaks.

Update: Four minutes of highlights for you including the surprise announcement of the night — plans for an “enduring relationship” with Iraq, presumably on the model of South Korea, that will involve a “security engagement that extends beyond my presidency.” That’s an odd thing to announce now, when he’s trying to reap the political benefits of a (very limited) withdrawal, but there you go. It also flies in the face not only of Sadr’s nationalist rhetoric but poll after poll of Iraqi citizens who say they want the United States out (eventually). Bush wants U.S. troops there to keep Tehran on its toes, though, and also to act as a “tripwire” (again, a la South Korea) in case Iranian forces try to assert themselves inside the country. The more menacing Iran is, the more you can expect Iraqis to grudgingly accept the idea, so long as the “security” part of the enduring relationship involves a small number of troops and, in all likelihood, bases in Kurdistan.

The other scoop is that he’s asked Petraeus to give another progress report in March. The Republicans up for re-election next year will have their life vests on and will have already been seated in the lifeboats by then, so unless that report’s as rosy as the desert sun, it’s game over.

Needless to say, the clip’s been heavily edited.