Republicans break with Bush on Iraq

As opposition to his failed war in Iraq mounted, President George W. Bush always knew he could count on the unwavering support of hard-core Republicans.

That was then. This is now.

Increasingly, Republicans express weariness with the war and his lack of progress and support for candidates who back Bush without question is eroding.

And more and more Republicans now admit, belatedly, that they may have been wrong to back the President without question.

Reports Susan Saulny of The New York Times:

Through four elections, Debbie Thompson has supported Representative Mark Steven Kirk, a Republican and staunch backer of the Bush administration’s policies in Iraq.

But Ms. Thompson, a mother of two from this affluent suburb of Chicago, says her views on the war have evolved, and she now wants Mr. Kirk to change, too.

“My patience for this war, it’s run out,” said Ms. Thompson, 53. “I think this is the most expensive, stupidest thing ever done. My frustration has reached a level that is so unsettling, something has to be done.”

Though voters here in the 10th Congressional District have elected a Republican to the House for as long as anyone can remember, there is a newfound hostility about the war that is being directed toward Mr. Kirk, who was narrowly re-elected to a fourth term last November.

Nor is Mr. Kirk alone in his struggle to appease increasingly restless constituents. He and 10 other Republicans in Congress recently delivered a warning to President Bush that conditions in Iraq needed to improve soon because public support of the war was crumbling.

While a majority of Republican voters continue to support Mr. Bush and the Iraq war, including the recent increase in American troops deployed, there are concerns that the war is undermining the party’s political position. A majority of Republicans who were interviewed for a New York Times/CBS News poll this month said that things were going badly in Iraq and that Congress should allow financing only on the condition that the Iraqi government met benchmarks for progress.

In a poll in March, a majority of Republicans said that a candidate who backed Mr. Bush’s war policies would be at a decided disadvantage in 2008. They also suggested that they were open to supporting a candidate who broke with the president on the war.

That change of heart can be seen in many ways around the country. When the North Shore Women for Peace, a small group of antiwar activists from around here, first stood in the breezeway of a high-end strip mall in nearby Highland Park in the months leading up to the war, they drew sneers, expletives and many a thumbs-down.

By 2005, members said, they had found a more neutral audience, given to stares but little else. Recently, people smiled in support, honked their car horns and volunteered to join the cause at a peace rally.