The President's Address to the Nation, January 10, 2007:
"I've made it clear to the Prime Minister and Iraq's other leaders that America's commitment is not open-ended. If the Iraqi government does not follow through on its promises, it will lose the support of the American people -- and it will lose the support of the Iraqi people. Now is the time to act. The Prime Minister understands this. Here is what he told his people just last week: "The Baghdad security plan will not provide a safe haven for any outlaws, regardless of [their] sectarian or political affiliation." (...)
A successful strategy for Iraq goes beyond military operations. Ordinary Iraqi citizens must see that military operations are accompanied by visible improvements in their neighborhoods and communities. So America will hold the Iraqi government to the benchmarks it has announced."
Background Briefing by Senior Administration Officials, January 10, 2007:
"We have made very clear that the Iraqi government needs to meet the benchmarks it has set in order to do the things on which a broader reconciliation are required. And you all know them. They're the oil law; they're de-Baathification, narrowing the limitations of the de-Baathification law; they're provincial elections to bring the Sunnis back into the political process at the local level. There is also continuing, and we would hope even accelerating the transition of security responsibility to Iraqis elsewhere in the country and in Baghdad, because if this works it will actually enable Iraqis sooner to provide security in Baghdad. And we have -- would like, and the Iraqis have made clear that one of their benchmarks is to take responsibility for security in the whole country by the end of the year. (...)
They have set forward this plan. They have brought forward these benchmarks. And what the President is saying is, fine, we will judge you now less on your words and more on your performance."
"An internal White House memorandum, prepared to respond to the GAO findings, says the report will claim the Iraqis have failed on at least 13 benchmarks. It also says the criteria lawmakers set for the report allow no room to report progress, only absolute success or failure.
The memo argues that the GAO will not present a "true picture" of the situation in Iraq because the standards were "designed to lock in failure," according to portions of the document read to the AP by an official who has seen it."
"At the White House, officials argued that the GAO report, which was required by legislation President Bush signed last spring, was unrealistic because it assigned "pass or fail" grades to each benchmark, rather than assessing whether the Iraqis have made progress toward reaching the benchmark goals.
"A bar was set so high, that it was almost not to be able to be met," White House deputy press secretary Dana Perino said."
(Emphasis added in all quotes.)