The main criticisms this blog has directed at the conduct of the war have been the insufficient troop numbers and allowing the looting and disorder to spread after the liberation. Now comes Jerry Bremer to say exactly the same thing:

“We paid a big price for not stopping it because it established an atmosphere of lawlessness. We never had enough troops on the ground.”

That’s a big admission. Why doesn’t Edwards bring that up directly tonight with Cheney? And since it was so obvious so soon, why didn’t the administration do anything to change that policy once its failings had become so glaring? Pig-headedness? Ignorance? Hubris? Or merely Rumsfeld – shorthand for all three?

47 PERCENT: That’s Bush’s approval rating. It’s about as low as it can possibly get if he has a decent chance of getting re-elected. The first debate did for Kerry what 1980’s first debate did for Reagan: it reassured waverers that he has the ability to be president, especially in a national security crisis. The reason for Bush’s weakness? Money quote:

Asked what kind of job Mr. Bush had done in anticipating what would happen in Iraq as a result of the war, 59 percent said he had done a poor job and 34 percent said a good job. A slight majority, 52 percent, said the United States had been too quick to go to war in Iraq, compared with 37 percent who said the timing was about right.

A majority believes that Bush was wrong in the timing of the war and wrong in its execution. And the war is the pre-eminent issue in the campaign. Unless Bush reverses those judgments, he will lose.

PREDICTING TONIGHT: Well, I could easily be wrong, but I have a feeling Cheney will crush Edwards tonight. The format is God’s gift to Daddy. They’ll both be seated at a table, immediately allowing Cheney to do his assured, paternal, man-of-the-world schtick that makes me roll on my back and ask to have my tummy scratched. (Yes, I do think that Cheney is way sexier than Edwards. Not that you asked or anything.) Every time I’ve heard Edwards talk about foreign policy, I’ve winced – not because he’s some kind of U.N.-style liberal, but because he’s obviously winging it, hasn’t thought much about foreign policy, and seems miles away from thinking about anything like, er, strategy. Then again, Cheney’s record so far in this war has been unencouraging. I’ll be drinking a shot every time Edwards says Halliburton. And I’ll be fascinated to see how and if Cheney grapples with his president’s war on his own daughter’s dignity. (Stay tuned later tonight. I’ll be commenting for C-SPAN by phone from Philadelphia, and then doing my usual blog summary – and on TNR.)