Monday, January 01, 2007

Fool Me Once ...

GOP lawmakers are increasingly skeptical about Bush's troop "surge." With cause.

Republican lawmakers appear uneasy about -- and in some cases outright dismissive of -- the idea of sending many more troops to Iraq, as President Bush contemplates such a "surge" as part of his new strategy for stabilizing the country.

Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), a leading GOP presidential contender for 2008, has been aggressively promoting a plan to send tens of thousands of additional troops to Iraq, and the idea has been gaining traction at the White House as a way to improve security in Baghdad.

But the proposition generates far less enthusiasm among rank-and-file Republicans, many of whom must face the voters again in 2008, presenting a potential obstacle for Bush as he hones the plan, according to lawmakers, aides and congressional analysts. ...

"Republicans are scared to death of it politically," said Ed Rogers, a top GOP lobbyist with ties to the White House and Republican leaders on the Hill. "The fear is that it won't make any difference. There won't be a perception of turning the corner."

Columnist Robert Novak goes with the same story today:

Sen. John McCain, leading a blue-ribbon congressional delegation to Baghdad before Christmas, collected evidence that a "surge" of more U.S. troops is needed in Iraq. But not all of his colleagues who accompanied him were convinced. What's more, he will find himself among a dwindling minority in the Senate Republican caucus when Congress reconvenes this week. ...

I checked with prominent Republicans around the country and found them confused and disturbed about the surge. They incorrectly assumed that the presence of Republican stalwart James Baker as co-chairman of the Iraq Study Group meant it was Bush-inspired (when it really was a bipartisan creation of Congress). Why, they ask, is the president casting aside the commission's recommendations and calling for more troops?

Even in Mississippi, where Bush's approval rating has just inched above 50 percent, Republicans see no public support for more troops. What is happening inside the president's party is reflected by defection from support for his war policy after November's election by two Republican senators who face an uphill race for re-election in 2008: Gordon Smith of Oregon and Norm Coleman of Minnesota. Coleman announced his opposition to more troops after returning from a trip to Iraq before McCain's.

The Republicans can use the talk about a "surge" in their favor. Absent the usual Rovian public tarring of war doubters as "anti-American" or "un-patriotic" -- which worked wonders on Democrats the last few years -- the chances now of congressional support for further White House Iraq blunders is low.

If the new congress stands in the way of the administration's desire to send more troops into the Mesopotamian morass, the Democrats can be blamed for "losing" the Iraq war.

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