Monday, June 20, 2005

Another Republican Senator Breaks Ranks With Bush Administration

Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) is the latest Republican leader to break ranks with the Bush Administration, calling the administration's Iraq policy "disconnected from reality."

Hagel, in an interview in the June 27 issue of U.S. News & World Report, said he's angered by the 1,700 U.S. soldiers dead and nearly 13,000 wounded in Iraq. But he's also aggravated by the Bush Administration's never-ending propaganda campaign -- telling Americans to ignore their television sets and agree with their sunny assessments of the war.

"Things aren't getting better; they're getting worse. The White House is completely disconnected from reality," Hagel told the magazine. "It's like they're just making it up as they go along. The reality is that we're losing in Iraq. ... More and more of my colleagues up here are concerned."


That makes 10 Republican Senators who have spoken out -- dare I say, taken "leadership positions" -- against the Bush Administration in less than a month. It's a list that covers topics such as whether to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center, protecting U.S. consumers from the administration's drug industry pals, and preventing Bush lackey Bill Frist (R-TN) from being able to employ the "nuclear option," upending the Senate's rules on filibusters.

The list of 10, if you are scoring at home, is now:

-- John McCain of Arizona
-- Mel Martinez of Florida
-- Charles Grassley of Iowa
-- Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine
-- Mike DeWine of Ohio
-- Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island
-- Lindsey Graham of South Carolina
-- John Warner of Virginia

Critics of criticism -- that rare brand of conservative who believes in free speech only when it's tied to some sort of loyalty oath -- would identify the New England Senators as "liberal Republicans" (gasp), and DeWine, Graham, Hagel and McCain as possible 2008 presidential candidates (harrumph).

Let's not be naive. While politicians want to keep one eye on their constituent's best interests, they're keeping the other eye, both ears, their nose, mouth, arms, legs and tushy on their viability as elected officials.

The "you're with us or you're un-American" attitude of the Bush administration works better when Bush's popularity is soaring. It's not right now. And on issues like the rising cost -- financial and human -- of Iraq, and our treatment of detainees at Gitmo, Bush's popularity has fallen to very uncomfortable levels. Abandon the ship levels.


Of course, 10 out of 55 is still a modest number. And on key issues like Iraq, don't expect the White House to stray from its "my way or the highway approach."

The White House has planned a new public-relations push by the president to shore up support for the Iraq War. During his weekly radio address on June 18, Bush once again seamlessly weaved together the "war on terror" with the Iraq War:

BUSH: We went to war because we were attacked, and we are at war today because there are still people out there who want to harm our country and hurt our citizens. Some may disagree with my decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power, but all of us can agree that the world's terrorists have now made Iraq a central front in the war on terror. ... The terrorists know they cannot defeat our troops, so they seek to weaken our nation's resolve. They know there is no room for them in a free and democratic Middle East, so the terrorists and insurgents are trying to get us to retreat.

It's a classic Bush text from the Karl Rove/Frank Luntz school of imagemaking. Bush doesn't want to spell out that we were attacked by Al Qaeda terrorists, nearly all of whom were Saudi, headed by Osama bin Laden, who is still at large, and apparently financed in part by Iran.

Bushspeak allows for bait-and-switch. Al Qaeda becomes morphed into the Iraqi insurgency. Why are we at war with Iraq? Because "the world's terrorists have now made Iraq a central front in the war on terror." It may be a self-fulfilling prophecy, but it's red meat for Bush's conservative following. Why should we support the Bush plan in Iraq? Not because Bush has a sound exit strategy, but because the terrorists "seek to weaken our nation's resolve."

The public relations offensive also includes a June 28 meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jafari -- that's the anniversary of the handover of power to an Iraqi government from U.S. authorities.

But Republicans like Hagel say they are tired of public relations. They want results.

"If things don't start to turn around in six months, then it may be too late," Hagel told US News & World Report. "I think it's that serious."


Blogger Shadow said...

Never mind the fact that Iraq was not a haven for terrorists until we invaded.

I'm listening to Congressman Nadler on the Al Franken show. He's been talking about the hearing on the USA PATRIOT Act, which Congressman Sensenbrenner abruptly ended. Republican members blasted such witnesses as a representative from Amnesty International, saying, in effect, how dare they criticize U.S. policies, we're such a great country. But they miss the point. What makes us great is our openness to criticism, and concern for - yes - the rule of law, and human rights.

2:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's a shocking thought.
Let's hope the Iraq people don't catch on to a clear interpretation of Bush's statement in the Saturday morning radio address referenced by JABBS: We attacked Iraq so we could turn the country into a magnet for terrorists and fight them there instead of in our home country.
In other words, we can bring the fight to Iraq soil, destroying the country's infrastructure and killing thousands of innocent people as collateral damage in the process, so we don't have to wreak such havoc and death in our own country!
Attaboy Bush! Way to get the Iraq people on our side with more careless and stupid statements such as that one.

3:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why is it that you characterize these "mavericks" or "renegades" as having taken leadership roles, but when describing Sen. Lieberman or Sen. Miller, they are routinely vilified ?

8:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's obvious -- because the Democrats have always been fractured, and the Republicans, under Bush, have tried to remain one voice. It's newsworthy to note "cracks in the Republican armor," as JABBS has.

Zell Miller, btw, would have a lot more credibility if he left the party under honest terms. His speech at last year's RNC convention was a joke -- a string of stereotypes and misleading statements. Calling him a Democrat is as valuable as those who remember that Strom Thurmond was once a Democrat.

10:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You do have a valid point about Republicans sensing
that they are on a sinking ship. I myself would prefer not to think of it as
sinking, but as sailing off into the sunset. But sinking or not sinking, the
point is definitely that some Senators are starting to think about their own
careers again and not just marching to the beat of the Bush administration.
They'd like to stake a claim on a private island rather than leave the tropics
on a ship that won't return, to continue with the metaphor. I imagine that even
republican Senators might be a little exhausted after 4.5 years of Bush.

11:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe it is that the Republican party is a big tent, allowing differing voices. Whereas the Democrats speak in near unanimity on the issues that their constituents (read:special interests) require, ie. NARAL, NEA, et al.

1:33 PM  
Anonymous rob of wilmington, del. said...

So, most of the time Republicans can criticize Democrats for lacking a cohesive voice. But when it's convenient, Republicans can mock Democrats for agreeing on key issues?

What spin?

Democrats have always had the bigger tent. Republicans have in particular had a very narrow, single voice under the Bush administration.

There have been times -- and Jon Stewart is particularly adept at pointing this out -- when an issue arises, and literally 20 or 30 Republican Senators and Congressman will go onto "news" shows and parrot the exact wording -- not just the theme, but the specific words -- of Scott McClellan or Condo or W. That's not a coincidence -- that's creating a unified voice. Don't pretend that doesn't happen.

1:56 PM  
Anonymous Jeff Fisher said...

Chuck Hagel, now that is a real Republican. My heart is fluttering in anticipation that day he runs for President.

11:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh yeah, the Democrats tolerate contrary thinking so very well. Just look at how kind they have been to former Vice Presidential candidate Sen. Lieberman. Look at the vitriol that has been spewed at Sen. Miller.

10:50 AM  
Anonymous rob of wilmington, del. said...

I don't know of any examples where fellow Democrats were unkind to Lieberman. He was the party's vice presidential candidate in 2000, of course. He's considered a leader of the party.

Miller? First off, he's not in the Senate any longer. Don't know if you noticed. Second, after his vitriolic speech at the RNC last summer, wouldn't it be natural that other Democrats would distance themselves from him? I mean, he went to the RNC convention, not the DNC convention, and lied and stereotyped the Democrats. I think he brought pariah status onto himself.

10:54 AM  
Anonymous Andrew Donaldson said...

Retired duelist and Senator Zell Miller is actually a subject of ridicule in both political parties in his home state. The only politician who has been willing to stand on a stage with him this year is casino and Enron lobbyist Ralph Reed, who can hardly be regarded as mainstream, even within the Republican party.

4:31 AM  

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