The Daily Sandwich

"We have to learn the lesson that intellectual honesty is fundamental for everything we cherish." -Sir Karl Popper

Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Friday, July 21, 2006

GOP backs away from "stay the course" Iraq policy

It was just a few weeks ago that Congressional Republicans were blasting Democrats for their "cut and run" approach to Iraq. "Artificial timetables" would embolden the enemy, setting tangible goals would unfairly tie the administration's hands, and total victory was the only option. If the matter comes up for debate again, Republicans will be just as vocal in denouncing opposition to the president's non-plan. It's an election year, you know.

But it's now being reported that more than 100 Iraqi civilians are dying in attacks every day, and several Republicans are starting to publicly acknowledge that staying the course is the worst thing to do now.

Rep. Christopher Shays (Conn.) is using his House Government Reform subcommittee on national security to vent criticism of the White House's war strategy and new estimates of the monetary cost of the war. Rep. Gil Gutknecht (Minn.), once a strong supporter of the war, returned from Iraq this week declaring that conditions in Baghdad were far worse "than we'd been led to believe" and urging that troop withdrawals begin immediately.

And freshman Sen. John Thune (S.D.) told reporters at the National Press Club that if he were running for reelection this year, "you obviously don't embrace the president and his agenda."

"The first thing I'd do is acknowledge that there have been mistakes made," Thune said.

Rank-and file Republicans who once adamantly backed the administration on the war are moving to a two-stage new message, according to some lawmakers. First, Republicans are making it clear to constituents they do not agree with every decision the president has made on Iraq. Then they boil the argument down to two choices: staying and fighting or conceding defeat to a vicious enemy.

The shift is subtle, but Republican lawmakers acknowledge that it is no longer tenable to say the news media are ignoring the good news in Iraq and painting an unfair picture of the war.