TELL ME, PETRAEUS. A WaPo's webcast interview yesterday with Democratic whip James Clyburn suggested that a positive report from Gen. Petraeus could cause a boondoggle for the 47 blue dog Democrats in the House, without whom it will be impossible to pass any kind of timetable for withdrawal. The report from Petraeus is expected to be mixed, given little subsiding of violence in Iraq, but some forecast a slightly more positive review.

And why not? Over the last year, there's been something of an exodus of good reporters from Iraq (some of whom have come back to write books), and even the reporters still there rely heavily on Iraqi stringers for person-to-person reporting, and on the U.S. military for any kind of statistics. With such a heavy reliance on the military for information, Petraeus could be glossing over the bad news from Iraq and making it very hard to slice through the war of rhetoric the right will launch. Especially since he answers directly to Bush, who of course wants the war to seem like it's going better, Petraeus has every incentive to tailor his report (even unconsciously) accordingly.

--Kay Steiger

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