Republicans Continue To Splinter on Iraqby Doug Mataconis
When it comes to Republican Senators, there are no two more pro-military members than John Warner and Richard Lugar. Warner is a former Secretary of the Navy who, while in the Senate has served on the Armed Services Committee nonstop and has been its Chairman more than once. Lugar has been on the same committee since entered in the Senate in 1976. And both are considered among the Republicans most reliable Senators when it comes to matters military.
Which is why this development yesterday should send signals to the White House that the beginning of the end in Iraq has arrived:
The Republican revolt against President Bush’s war strategy accelerated yesterday as two of the party’s most respected voices on national security proposed legislation envisioning a major realignment of U.S. troops in Iraq starting as early as Jan. 1.
Defying Bush even as his team fanned out to press Congress for more time, Sens. John W. Warner (Va.) and Richard G. Lugar (Ind.) unveiled a measure requiring the White House to begin drawing up plans to redeploy U.S. forces from frontline combat to border security and counterterrorism. But the legislation would not force Bush to implement the plans at this point.
The proposal fell short of Democratic demands to set a firm timetable for withdrawal but underscored the continuing erosion of the president’s position among Republicans on Capitol Hill, and it could shape the debate as Congress wrestles with its position on the war. Votes in both houses this week demonstrated that war opponents do not have enough support to overcome a Bush veto, and it remains unclear whether the two sides can reach a bipartisan consensus.
The measure proposed by Warner and Lugar yesterday would amend the Senate’s defense authorization bill. While the bulk of it is nonbinding, it would require the White House to present a realignment plan to Congress by Oct. 16, forcing the White House to begin work well before the September progress report from Army Gen. David H. Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker. Bush implored Congress on Thursday to wait for Petraeus’s assessment before trying to change strategy.
“Senator Warner and I have tried to approach the current situation by asking, ‘What should happen now, even if the president has not changed course?’ ” Lugar said in remarks prepared for delivery on the Senate floor.
Lugar and Warner carry particular weight as two of the party’s leading authorities on national security. Until Democrats took over in January, Lugar was chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and Warner was chairman of the Armed Services Committee.
The question now is whether the Democratic leadership in Congress will take developments like this and run with them, realizing that coming up with a compromise proposal that Republicans will agree with is better than taking meaningless vote after meaningless vote.
For the moment, it appears that Harry Reid is going to be the political idiot he’s always appeared to be.
Yet Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) has shown no interest in working with rebellious Republicans if they do not support a firm withdrawal date. “We are not going to stop,” Reid told reporters after Bush’s news conference Thursday. “We are going to continue facing down this bad policy. It is not good for America. It’s not good for the world.”
Translation: The Democrats consider Iraq an issue they can score political points with, not something they actually want to do something about.