Friday, January 12, 2007
Dubya still has a loyal friend
Bush's new buddy, Lieberman
Originally posted: January 12, 2007
Posted by David Lightman at 8 am CST
That was Joe Lieberman, the Democratic (?) senator from Connecticut whom President Bush singled out the other night in his televised speech to the nation when the president spoke of creating a bipartisan working group in Congress.
It's further evidence that Lievberman, reelected to a fourth term in November as an independent after losing his party's primary election, is more more warmly received by Republicans than Democrats these days. The Hartford Courant explains why today:
Lieberman & GOP:
Irritation For Democrats
EVEN GOP SENATORS RIP RICE ON IRAQ
Hostile lawmakers question her credibility, blast Bush plan
Carolyn Lochhead, Chronicle Washington Bureau
Friday, January 12, 2007
(01-12) 04:00 PST Washington -- Republican support for President Bush's Iraq policy shattered Thursday as top administration officials ran into a wall of skepticism and even damnation of his plan to send more troops to Iraq.
Hostility was especially intense toward Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. An architect of the Iraq war, Rice called the troop increase an augmentation, angering some senators. Senators of both parties clearly have wearied of her analyses, and, one after another, even normally quiescent backbench Republicans questioned her credibility.
Earlier skeptics of the proposal went on the attack.
"I have to say, Madam Secretary, that I think this speech given last night by this president represents the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam," Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., said of Bush's plan to add 21,500 troops to secure Baghdad in concert with Iraqi forces. "If it's carried out, I will resist it."
Hagel is a longtime critic of Bush's Iraq policy. More surprising was the grilling Rice took from Sen. John Sununu, a New Hampshire Republican facing re-election in 2008, and Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who said she agreed with Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., that Great Britain's announcement of troop withdrawals leaves the United States isolated in Iraq.
Ohio Republican Sen. George Voinovich, a former supporter of the president's Iraq policy, told Rice he had "bought into (Bush's) dream. And at this stage of the game, I don't think it's going to happen."
The committee's former chairman, Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., asked about press reports that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki did not ask for more U.S. troops -- as the administration maintained Wednesday -- but for more Iraqi control.
Rice replied that the core of al-Maliki's plan had been preserved, but U.S. generals determined that U.S. forces would have to back up the Iraqis. The fabric of Iraqi society is disintegrating so rapidly, she said, that "they don't have a lot of time to get on top of it, and we don't have time to sequence our help to help them get on top of it."
Democrats are preparing nonbinding resolutions in the House and Senate to oppose the president's plan to increase troop levels. The unified opposition of the Democrats and the wavering of at least half a dozen Republicans spurred Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to promise to block by filibuster such a resolution in the Senate.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he has the 60 votes, which would include 12 Republicans, needed to break a filibuster.
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, now three weeks on the job after replacing Donald Rumsfeld, and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Peter Pace met a slightly less chilly reception in the House Armed Services Committee. Gates arrived with less baggage than Rice and is seen as being more frank. Still, Chairman Ike Skelton, D-Mo., dismissed Bush's plan as a change of tactics, not strategy.
Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Walnut Creek, told Gates the plan is "just absolutely ridiculous after the colossal and catastrophic failures of your predecessor."
Gates and Rice insisted that, despite press reports from Iraq, al-Maliki's government devised the plan and already has begun carrying it out by sending the first of three new brigades to Baghdad. Experts pointed to the Kurdish peshmerga, the military forces of the relatively calm Kurdish north, as being among the new troops in the Iraqi capital that would be trying to quell the Sunni-Shiite killings that have engulfed Baghdad.
Both officials refused to set a timeline for the operation. They also refused to say what consequences would follow if the Iraqis fail to achieve certain benchmarks Bush set out. These include an agreement by the Iraqi government to share oil revenues with its citizens, revise the Constitution and ease the de-Baathification rules to placate Sunnis and show evidence that al-Maliki's Shiite government is cracking down on Shiite militias.
Rice and Gates would say only that al-Maliki's government knows it is living on borrowed time and that evidence of its seriousness will be apparent within weeks. Both said that other elements of al-Maliki's coalition government have agreed to the plan.
Rice said Iraqi forces will take on radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, an al-Maliki supporter whose militia stronghold is in Baghdad's Sadr City.
"The Iraqis are going to have to deal with Sadr," Rice said. "And to the degree that Sadr is outside of the political process and his death squads are engaged in violence, then they're going to have to deal with those death squads, and the prime minister said nobody and nothing is off limits."
U.S. troops will be embedded with Iraqi forces, and additions will proceed in stages, during which Gates said the administration can tell whether Iraq's government is holding up its end of the bargain and revisit its commitment if necessary.
Asked what he meant by revisit, Gates said "that's a decision we'll make at the time."
Rice, asked what would happen should the Iraqi government fail to follow through on its latest commitments, said "I want to be not explicit about what we might do."
She said any evidence of that failure would appear within two or three months.
"Or else what?" asked Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill.
"Or this plan ... is not going to work," Rice replied.
Obama pressed her on whether there is any circumstance in which the president would tell Iraqis that he would no longer commit U.S. combat troops.
Rice refused to say more than that Bush "has made very clear that of course there are circumstances. That's what it means when he says our patience is not unlimited."
Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph Biden, D-Del., warned Rice that Bush would need congressional authority for any incursions over Iraq's borders with Syria and Iran.
Biden was reacting to the president's warnings in his speech Wednesday night that U.S. forces would look for and destroy arms networks from Iran and Syria that are believed to be fueling the conflict.
"The plan is to take down these networks in Iraq," Rice said, but refused to rule out actions across the borders if they are needed to protect U.S. troops.
Gates insisted that Iraq is at a pivotal point and every effort must be made to stabilize it.
"Whatever one's views of the original decision to go to war and the decisions that have brought us to this point, there seems to be broad agreement that failure in Iraq would be a calamity for our nation of lasting historical consequence," Gates said. "The impetus to add U.S. forces came initially from our commanders there. It would be a sublime yet historic irony if those who believe the views of the military professionals were neglected at the onset of the war were now to dismiss the views of the military as irrelevant or wrong."
Opposition in the Senate to President Bush's new strategy for Iraq
Comments from senators Thursday during an appearance by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice about the president's plan to increase U.S. troop levels in Iraq:
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska: "You've clearly heard the skepticism that has been expressed this morning by so many of my colleagues and for good reason - skepticism about a lot of things."
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.: "Now, the issue is who pays the price, who pays the price? I'm not going to pay a personal price. My kids are too old, and my grandchild is too young. You're not going to pay a particular price, as I understand it, within immediate family. So who pays the price? The American military and their families, and I just want to bring us back to that fact."
Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn.: "I just don't know if the Iraqis or if the Sunnis are done killing each other. I don't know if the bloodletting is past them."
Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb.: "It's, first of all, in my opinion, morally wrong. It's tactically, strategically, militarily wrong. We will not win a war of attrition in the Middle East... Madam Secretary, we've been there almost four years, and there's a reason for that skepticism and pessimism, and that is based on the facts on the ground, the reality of the dynamics."
Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del.: "I believe the president's strategy is not a solution, Secretary Rice. I believe it's a tragic mistake."