Capitol Hillbillies

Lawmakers step up pressure on Bush

The White House found itself under renewed political pressure Monday as top US lawmakers expressed impatience with Iraqi leader Nuri al-Maliki and called for a withdrawal of US troops to begin.

Republican John Warner, one of the Senate’s most influential voices on military affairs, amplified his bombshell demand of last week that President George W. Bush should start a limited troop withdrawal from Iraq by Christmas.

“Our troops have performed magnificently, under brilliant leadership, and have done precisely as the president asked,” he told NBC television Sunday.

Warner: Time to bring troops home

Sen. John Warner’s call for troop withdrawals from Iraq is likely to ratchet up pressure on President Bush substantially and lend momentum to Democratic efforts to end U.S. combat.

Warner, R-Va., former chairman of the Armed Services Committee and Navy secretary during the Vietnam War, said Bush should bring some troops home by Christmas. Doing so, he told reporters Thursday, would send a powerful message that the U.S. commitment in Iraq was not open-ended.

Democrats promote Bush’s troop surge

Reviled by most Democrats, President Bush’s 20,000-troop surge is working. Indeed, news of this policy’s success is emerging from an unlikely source: Democrats.

Despite other misgivings on Iraq, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., admitted to the Veterans of Foreign Wars on Monday: “We’ve begun to change tactics in Iraq and in some areas, particularly in Al Anbar province, it’s working.”

Patraeus will testify before Congress

General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker will testify before US lawmakers at public hearings to be held early next month, the White House said Monday.

The two men, responsible for implementing and assessing President George W. Bush’s “surge” strategy in Iraq, will likely testify September 11 and 12, national security spokesman Gordon Johndroe told reporters.

The two men are preparing a report on the Iraq war which is due to be released on September 15.

“General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker will testify in open hearings on (Capitol) Hill,” Johndroe said.

Hastert makes it official

Rep. Dennis Hastert became speaker of the House by a twist of fate, and ended up holding the post longer than any other Republican and throughout a tumultuous period of American history. He announced Friday that he will not seek re-election, making official what had been suspected since last year’s Democratic takeover of Congress cost him the powerful speaker’s position.

“Together, we have made a difference. We have made history, and I thank you,” he told supporters in front of the Kendall County courthouse in the northern Illinois district he was first elected to represent in 1986.

Plan to ‘spin’ Iraq report draws anger

Anti-war Democrats on Thursday accused President George W. Bush of plotting to lace a potentially pivotal report on his Iraq troop surge strategy with “White House spin.”

The attack came as senior congressional aides were reported as saying the White House tried to block public testimony in Congress next month from war commander General David Petraeus and US ambassador to Baghdad Ryan Crocker.

Democrats are also angry the assessment on the surge, required under US law, will be written at the White House, not personally by Crocker and Petraeus.

FBI expands probe of Ted Stevens

The FBI is investigating the National Science Foundation’s award of up to $170 million in contracts to the oil-field-services company that oversaw renovations on U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens’ home.

The firm, Veco Corp., captured a lucrative five-year NSF contract in 1999 to provide logistics and support for polar research, although it had no previous experience in that field. During the same time period, Veco’s top executive managed renovations that doubled the size of the longtime Republican senator’s Girdwood, Alaska, home — the scene of a July 30 FBI raid.

Hastert calls it quits

Rep. Dennis Hastert of Illinois, who served as speaker of the House longer than any other Republican in history, intends to retire next year at the end of his current term, party officials said Tuesday.

A formal announcement was planned for Friday.

Hastert’s planned retirement is likely to set off a lively scramble between the two political parties for a House seat that he has held easily since 1986.

Monuments to waste and stupidity

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi must welcome the heat she’s getting for wobbling on the farm and energy bills. Having caved in to Detroit on fuel economy standards and compromised with Midwest agro-plutocrats on crop subsidies for millionaires, she’s shown that she’s more a pragmatic Baltimore pol like her father than a knee-jerk San Francisco liberal. That’ll serve her well.

Both the farm and the energy bills won approval in the House in the past couple of weeks. Both are monuments to waste, stupidity and policy distortions going back generations — longer in the case of the ag subsidies.

A corrupt Congressional delegation?

It was just two days after the FBI raid on U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens’ house, and his colleague, U.S. Rep. Don Young, was at a press conference to attack a Democratic energy bill. It was the first time reporters were able to ask Young any questions since the news emerged that he, too, was under federal investigation.