Administration officials speak privately of a sense of fatigue over the worsening crisis in Iraq that has drained energy from other important policy issues. Senior officials are leaving - not so unusual in a second term, but still giving the sense of a sinking ship run in some quarters by relatively inexperienced crew.
Neo-conservative commentators at the American Enterprise Institute wrote last week what amounted to an obituary of the Bush freedom doctrine.
"Bush killed his own doctrine," they said, describing the final blow as the resumption of diplomatic relations with Libya. This betrayal of Libyan democracy activists, they said, came after the US watched Egypt abrogate elections, ignored the collapse of the "Cedar Revolution" in Lebanon, abandoned imprisoned Chinese dissidents and started considering a peace treaty with Stalinist North Korea.
The neo-conservatives offered no explanation for desertion of the doctrine, other than a desire to make quick but transitory short-term gains. "The president continues to believe his own preaching, but his administration has become incapable of making the hard choices those beliefs require," they wrote.
But the ranks of the neo-conservatives are also being depleted. In his new book, America at the Crossroads, Francis Fukuyama, perhaps the movement's most outstanding intellectual force, confirms his defection from the brand concepts of "pre-emption, regime change, unilateralism and benevolent hegemony as put into practice by the Bush administration".
"It seems to me better to abandon the label and articulate an altogether distinct foreign policy position," he writes.