A rock and a hard place for the GOP

Senate Republicans are growing increasingly nervous defending the war in Iraq, and Democrats more confident in their attempts to end it.

More than a year before the 2008 elections, it is a political role reversal that bodes ill for President Bush’s war strategy, not to mention his recent statement that Congress’ role should merely be “funding the troops.”

Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, made that clear Friday when he dismissed any suggestion that it could be November before a verdict is possible on the effects of the administration’s current troop increase.

“September is the month we’re looking at,” he said unequivocally.

Yet as the party leader, McConnell is more circumspect than many Republicans in his characterization of the administration’s war strategy. Asked earlier in the week whether he agreed that the conflict had been badly mismanaged — as Sen. John McCain has said for months — McConnell declined to respond.

Not so Sen. Christopher Bond, R-Mo.

“The strategy we had before was not the right strategy,” he told reporters at midweek. “We should have had a counterinsurgency strategy.”

By his remarks, Bond made it clear he meant the strategy was wrong from the time Saddam Hussein was deposed until this past January, when Gen. David Petraeus was installed as top military commander. That’s a span of nearly four years.

Asked who bore responsibility for the error, Bond said, “Ultimately, obviously, the president.”

Should any blame fall on Congress — under Republican control the entire time?

“Congress was not running the war,” Bond replied.

It is not only the mood that is changing among Republicans. So, too, the rhetoric.

“Cut and run,” has largely come and gone as an insult to hurl at Democrats, as Republicans themselves contemplate a change in course.

It also is the mission they envision changing as they try to salvage what they can from a war that has taken the lives of more than 3,600 U.S. troops and cost more than $400 billion.

Their once-clear vision of Iraq as a stable, self-sustaining democracy is faded.

“Today’s mission is focused on al-Qaida,” said Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., reflecting what other administration allies in Congress say privately.

In this view, the main U.S. military focus should be on preventing Iraq from falling under terrorist control. One Republican senator, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the shift in talk of a military objective was a prelude to a change to a strategy that would pull U.S. troops back from a civil war between Sunni and Shiites.

But focusing attention on al-Qaida raises familiar questions: Were terrorists present in Iraq before the 2003 invasion and what would happen if U.S. forces departed?

According to several officials, Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, and McCain engaged in a brief, impromptu debate touching on that point recently at a private meeting of the rank and file.

Voinovich said the Sunni and Shiites in Iraq would together drive al-Qaida from their country if the U.S. were not there. McCain took the opposite view. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity, noting that the meeting was private.

If Republicans struggling to regroup — with or without the president they have followed through four years of war — Democrats are on the march.

“Time and the American people are … on our side,” Sen. Harry Reid, the majority leader, said last week. The Nevada Democrat spoke in defeat, after Republicans — whatever their private misgivings — blocked a final vote on a troop withdrawal deadline.

Only four of 49 Republican senators defected in last week’s showdown. The group did not include Sens. John Warner of Virginia, Richard Lugar of Indiana, Pete Domenici of New Mexico and other senior lawmakers who are seeking a change in course.

Many of the most nervous Republicans are seeking re-election in 2008, and it was a measure of the Democrats’ political confidence that Reid abruptly halted debate on the war once the troop withdrawal measure was scuttled.

Several officials said he did not want any of several Republican or bipartisan alternatives to come to a vote. His objective was to deny a political escape hatch to any GOP senator who would not support the Democratic withdrawal measure. These officials spoke on condition of anonymity, saying they were not authorized to discuss strategy.

It was only 13 months — and one election — ago that Reid was the one hoping to avoid a vote on a troop withdrawal. Then, Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Russell Feingold, D-Wis., angered Reid by insisting on a vote on a fixed withdrawal deadline of July 1, 2007.

Democratic strategists fretted about the impact on senators seeking re-election and challengers to Republicans in swing states.

The plan drew the support of 13 Democrats. Reid was not among them, nor were the Democratic presidential contenders currently clamoring for the support of anti-war voters.

The public, it turned out, was more unhappy about the war than the Democratic strategists understood. Despite their tentativeness, Democrats won control of the House and Senate in an election in which Iraq played a large role.

“Now it’s the unified Democratic position,” Kerry correctly e-mailed his supporters last week.

“In May, Republicans were dismissing even tough questions about the escalation. Now, they’re falling all over themselves to distance themselves from the president.”


David Espo is AP’s chief congressional correspondent


  1. SEAL

    Helen, it is impossible to convey what people like you and me feel when we see these over-paid over-stuffed windbags in congress violate their oath of office. We see it as the greatest crime they could commit and a total betrayal of the people that elected them. The thing that really sets me off is that they get away with it. If I had ever done anything like that, I would be facing a court martial.

    I have three Purple Hearts and could have had more if I had, like John Kerry, reported the minor things that we just wraped a bandage around or over and kept going. I’ve killed and damn near been killed so many times I lost count. I have all the campaign ribbons and medals. What have these assholes ever done for their country? What risks have they taken beyond driving on the interstate? How in the world can they expect those like you and me who have put our lives on the line for our country to accept such stupid and treasonous remarks? Why is it they are not held accountable?

  2. gene

    Seal (“what risk have they taken beyond driving on the interstate”)NONE!!….only a few of these clowns have ever been in combat. I was on the medical in so I saw the results of war, soldiers and civilians. Thats what is so sicking about all of this, most of these bastards are living the “American Dream” and just talk about freedom, justice and so on. They do it in their airconditioned offices and restraunts along with their families who are safe.

    Between all the clueless, could care less freaky citizens and these worthless shits its a wonder most of us here don’t find a cliff to jump off of.

  3. Helen Rainier

    Should have taken my blood pressure pills before reading this. It sounds as though the mealy-mouthed Bond is trying to disavow any Republicon responsibility for the disastrous course of events since Bush took his first oath of office. Granted, the “president” bears the ultimate responsibility since he himself has declared he is the War President, the Commander in Chief, and the Decider. This is the same no-brain who openly said it would be easier if this country were a dictatorship and he was the dictator. It is becoming more and more difficult for me to maintain any sense of decorum and maturity when listening to or making posts about these f*ckers. But, for Bond and all of the Republicon Congressional cowards to try and shake off any responsibility for what has happened would make a person wearing an asbestos suit self-immolate. No, Bond, you and your fellow Republicons — McConnell, Lott, Sessions, Dominici, McHenry, Hutchinson, Dole DON’T get a f*cking free pass from this citizen, taxpayer and proud US Army vet. If, as you try to claim now, this was wrong from the very beginning then you and every one of your Congressional f*ckups deserve nothing but spite and contempt for your condoning decisions you think were screwed up and were antithetical to protecting and defending the Constitution of the United States. Every single one of you bastards can go Cheney Yourselves. Every single one of you snakes-in-the-grass are DOMESTIC ENEMIES. If I could make the decision as to your fates, you would be pounding rocks at Ft Leavenworth or interred at Gitmo for the rest of your miserable slimy lives — and frankly, that would TOO GOOD for you cretins.

  4. gene

    Excellent (Helen) above. One of the absolute best rants I have read so far here at CHB. I could not have in a thousand years said what you did is such an eloquent way. YOU truely spoke the TRUTH!!.

  5. bryan mcclellan

    What Helen said,squared to the max. Gene ,I think we’re in the presence of greatness………..

  6. gene

    Bryan I think you are right!!!! I’ll be watching for (Helen’s) rants. Still their are many here (such as yourself) that offer very entertaining and excellent rants also.

  7. gene

    Read (Helens Rainier’s) rant again and what she said will have me singing “sweet-Jesus” for days to come. She has (top) ranter for today, if I see any rants to beat this I’ll most likely stroke today.

    I hope she took her blood pressure med. She makes Hillary Clinton look like a non-enity.

  8. Helen Rainier

    Gene and Bryan, I am grateful and humbled by your laudatory comments. I try to keep a lid on my “anger rants” but this simply was too over the top. These members of this Insane Clown Posse are so intellectually and morally irresponsible and lazy that it strains the credulity of anyone who believes in justice and morality. These freakazoids took the same of Oath of Office/Enlistment that I did upon my initial enlistment in the Regular Army and my subsequent reenlistments as a member of the US Army Reserve. These words from that Oath of Enlistment are seared into my soul and my spirit and I still believe in them and take them seriously: “I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same;…” (Title 10, USC — in part). When people who take this oath shirk their responsibility and do not take it seriously, it makes my blood boil. This is the REAL reason that all members of the military decide to go into the military and stay in. As you may or may not have surmised, I am a 60s era hippie/flowerchild who is back in that touch with that part of me.

    BTW, I did, indeed, take my BP meds after reading this article by the AP writer. Thanks for your concern! 😉

  9. Helen Rainier

    Seal and Gene — Unlike the two of you my time in RA was characterized as a time of “peace” however, it fell into the tail end of the Vietnam War Era (76-79). I was at Ft Bragg — and a lot of the other soldiers I met there who became close friends were, in fact, Vietnam War veterans — many of them SF. These are the people who taught me what devotion and dedication to duty and accomplishing the mission are all about. In fact, my Group Commander (a COL who retired as a 3-star) was also a Nam vet — he and Norman Schwarzkopf were WP classmates. I give you both a proper salute and my deep gratitude for serving our country with honor and integrity.

    I now live in Washington State very near Ft Lewis and McChord. As such, while doing my daily errands I have the good fortune to run into many active duty military. Each and every time I see one, I thank them for their service to this country and I thank them for all the sacrifices both they and their families are making. Same thing happens when I go to the Puget Sound VA Hospital.

    It is extremely difficult for anyone who has never experienced the military and its ethics and the esprit de corps to understand how strongly those of us who have experienced it are affected and still moved by it. I still get a lump in my throat, a knot in my stomach and tears in my eyes when I watch a military memorial service or hear Taps. That will never change.

    Thanks to both of you for reaching out and embracing me as a compatriot and comrade in arms. It is difficult sometimes for we female vets to find people who truly understand how strongly we feel about our country.

    Hope you both have a wonderful day! 😉

  10. Helen Rainier

    JoyfulC, Will all respect, but I have to disagree with some of your points.

    I refuse to take any responsiblity for WHAT has happened to this country over the past six years at the hands of the Bushies and their enablers in Congress and here is why:

    1. I did NOT vote for the Bushies in either election, and I still have serious reservations as to the true legitimacy and legality of this administration.

    2. I have spoken out against the unconstitutional actions of this administration since Day One.

    3. I have written to and have called by federal legislators and expressed my opinions on the many transgressions of this administration since Day One.

    4. If I had supported these liars and thieves in any way what so ever, I would be just as guilty as they are. I haven’t, so I won’t.

    5. Unlike most of the cowards, liars and thieves in Congress who HAVE enabled this administration in their underhanded and nefarious actions and deeds, I HAVE, indeed, served my country HONORABLY as a US Army veteran.

    I have always believed in the Oath of Enlistment I have taken many times — particularly the part about supporting and defending the Constitution against ALL enemies foreign and domestic.

    It is my belief that the biggest enemy our country faces right now is the DOMESTIC ENEMY that is masquerading as our administration.

    I will NOT go down without fighting to the very end and the the last breath of life leaves my body and I ascend into the spiritual world.

  11. JoyfulC

    I respect all that is written here — and it’s easy to say — but okay, WHO EXACTLy should be voted in?

    I think, to some degree, we have some responsibility for the mess we’re in. We’ve been too eager to tune into the muck raking, too eager to cross the lines between personal life and public service; too eager to cross the lines between public policy that affects us all and that which only affronts our sensibilities.

    Obviously the time has come for America to shed it’s dead outer shell and emerge, fresh and new, with a renewed sense of democracy, freedom and commitment to justice. All that we’ve embraced has been turned on us, and now it’s time for us to shake our heads, get clear, and get back to what’s really important. It’s time for us to become tough taskmasters of those who would serve at our pleasure.

    This great country was founded upon some progressive thinking — the most progressive thinking in the world at that time. We need to stop being lazy and get back on that edge.

  12. Bill Robinson

    Fire them all, all the Republicans and the Democrats too!
    Do you realize that if these lacklustre human beings were working for a private company every one of them would have received “Pink Slips” by now. They are lazy, ineffective, and worse, overpaid. Let’s toss them all out and start with some fresh faces. Nobodys. We don’t need famous jerks in our government, we need responsible citizens who care for what the voters want.
    I am tired of voting for someone who just ignores their campaign promises and gets on the fat=cat bandwagon. Free this and that for people getting paid as much as these Congressmen and Senators are is a travesty. They should pay us for their job. They should do their job–the job they were elected to do.
    We need to clean House and Senate and Executive Branch. We DO NOT NEED TO PUT INTO OFFICE SOME CARBON COPIES OF WHAT WE HAVE NOW. Obama, Clinton, Guiliani, and the rest are just more of the same crap we have running and ruining the country. Let’s hire a new group, not stay with a bunch who have shown that the only thing they are good at is wasting our troops and our money.
    Fire them all.
    Bill Robinson