Counting the many blessings of citizenship this election season, one of the things I’m most grateful for is the fact our barely elected president is such a patient guy. I know because. now that the heat is really on in Iraq, he keeps saying how patient he is. When he talked to George Stephanopoulos a couple weeks ago, he said when asked about the situation in Iraq, “I’m patient.” And in his press conference yesterday, he said “we’ve got patience” in working with the Iraqi government,

The more interesting thing the president says when he talks about patience is the footnote he adds. He told Stephanopoulos that “I”m not patient forever, and I’m not patient with dawdling.” And yesterday, he added that our patience–nice of him to speak for me–is “not unlimited.”

What does that mean, exactly? We’ve spent several hundred billion dollars and thousands of lives for the Iraqis to elect a government. The Iraqis themselves are enduring a bloodbath and various sorts of appalling privations. When our patient president says his patience might run out and that he won’t stand for dawdling–who could blame him, three and a half years after he declared victory–what’s he thinking? If the tide refuses to halt, what then?

A reporter tried to ask him about that yesterday: “What happens if that patience runs out?”” he inquired. Tricky formulation in that it’s not clear whose patience “that patience”” is.

The president’s answer:

See, that’s that hypothetical Keil is trying to get me to answer. Why do we work to see to it that it doesn’t work out — run out? That’s the whole objective. That’s what positive people do. They say, we’re going to put something in place and we’ll work to achieve it.

I’m not sure I understand all that, especially the positive thinking part of it, but: Apparently, saying his patience won’t last forever is just a verbal tic. It doesn’t suggest anything. If it did, that would open up “hypothetical” ground the president refuses to tread (“Mr. President, what happens if they don’t throw bouquets at us when we get to Baghdad?”). We’ll just have to trust the president’s instincts and insights to get us through if his patience wears out. Works for me.

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