Key Senate Republicans are no longer buying into President Bush’s rosy views of the Iraq war and say it is time for the White House to come clean on the long-term problems the nation faces in Bush’s ill-conceived invasion.
Bush needs to tell Americans the nation faces “a long, hard slog” in Iraq, a key Republican senator said on Sunday, and another said the White House was “disconnected from reality” in its optimism over the war.
“Too often we’ve been told and the American people have been told that we’re at a turning point,” Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “What the American people should have been told and should be told … (is that) it’s long; it’s hard; it’s tough.”
“It’s going to be at least a couple more years,” said McCain, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Sen. Chuck Hagel, a Nebraska Republican, was quoted by U.S. News and World Report as saying the administration’s Iraq policy was failing.
“Things aren’t getting better; they’re getting worse. The White House is completely disconnected from reality,” said Hagel, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee. “It’s like they’re just making it up as they go along. The reality is that we’re losing in Iraq.”
The two senators’ remarks came as the Bush administration makes a push to counter growing U.S. public impatience with the Iraq war, and to resist demands by some lawmakers to set a date for withdrawal of U.S. forces.
U.S. public polls show the Iraq war is losing support and hurting Bush’s popularity. While Vice President Dick Cheney has asserted the insurgency is in its “last throes,” a suicide bombing in Baghdad on Sunday that killed at least 23 people underscored the unabated bloodshed.
Iraq’s al Qaeda group claimed the bombing and said U.S. forces were doomed to failure.
CUT AND RUN
Although there are some hopeful signs in Iraq, Cheney’s characterization was inaccurate, McCain said.
“I don’t think Americans believe that we should cut and run out of Iraq by any stretch of the imagination,” he said. “But I think they also would like to be told, in reality, what’s going on,” he said.
Democratic Sen. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, said on “This Week” on ABC, “It’s important the administration quit trying to pretend everything is going very well here. It’s not.”
CIA Director Porter Goss, however, said Cheney’s assessment was not too far off-mark.
“I think they’re not quite in the last throes, but I think they are very close to it,” Goss told Time magazine in an interview. The emergence of an Iraqi government shows the insurgents are “unwanted,” he said.
Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Goss’ statement did not comport with what he heard on a recent visit to Iraq.
“I wish Porter Goss would speak to his intelligence people on the ground,” Biden said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
“They didn’t suggest at all it was near its last throes. Matter of fact it’s getting worse, not better,” Biden said.
Bush said Iraq presented a “vital test” for American security. “The mission isn’t easy, and it will not be accomplished overnight,” he said on Saturday in his weekly radio address.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said any withdrawal of U.S. troops would depend on Iraq’s ability to handle its own security, and said events were moving in the right direction.
“The security forces of Iraq are getting better. We’re making progress, making steady progress. They’re not yet ready but they are taking over every day more and more of what the coalition has done. And that will mean that there is less need for coalition forces,” she told “Fox News Sunday.”