GOP Senators Undercut Bush Happy Talk On Iraq At Interesting Time
Memo to Kerry: It's the incompetence, stupid. Work that into your commercials, with a quote from Dick Lugar.
All I can say is that it sure is a case of interesting timing.
In advance of a week where Mr. Bush is putting on a Rovian full-court PR effort to convince voters that Iraq is on a successful path to democratization, four senators from his own party seemingly helped out John Kerry. Although they didn’t directly intend to do so, John McCain, Chuck Hagel, Lindsey Graham, and Dick Lugar, some of the only guys in the Republican Party who Bush/Rove can’t threaten all said things on the Sunday chatfests that could not have been scripted any better had Tad Devine or Joe Lockhart written the remarks themselves.
After the stories broke last week that the CIA had delivered to Bush a National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq that predicted dire consequences for the country and our involvement, Kerry and the Democrats have decided to hammer Bush repeatedly on Iraq in the closing days of this race. With this in mind, the GOP Senators could have pulled their punches yesterday, knowing as they did that the Rove grand game plan called for six weeks of “What me, Worry?” talk about Iraq from the president. Yet apparently McCain, Hagel, and Lugar either didn’t get the memo from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, or have decided that they can’t and don’t want to sugarcoat the situation and hide their disappointment in how Bush has managed the occupation.
"The fact is, we're in trouble. We're in deep trouble in Iraq," Hagel said. "And I think we're going to have to look at some recalibration of policy."
The chairman, Sen. Richard Lugar, noted that Congress appropriated $18.4 billion a year ago this week for reconstruction. No more than $1 billion has been spent. "This is the incompetence in the administration," Lugar, R-Ind., said on ABC's "This Week."
The remarks by the GOP senators give Kerry a good opening to gain traction on the issue of Iraq, which the campaign moved quickly to do this morning with a series of speeches on the subject. All the GOP senators seem to want an immediate infusion of more US troops to root out the insurgents from numerous cities in Iraq so that the January elections can take place. But the White House has been unwilling to commit to this in advance of the elections for obviously political reasons. So these GOP senators have in fact given Bush cover to do so.
Yet, it appears that Bush and Iraqi PM Allawi will try this week to spin another version of “Mission Accomplished,” whereby they both try and convince American voters that things are going better than reported, and than only a little more resolve and happy talk is necessary between now and the election. It would seriously undercut the “What Me, Worry” message that Bush and Allawi are peddling this week if a massive 30,000-40,000 new troop deployment was part of the spin campaign. Yet this was the message from the president’s own party yesterday, so the timing of these comments from them is all the more surprising, and can only help Kerry.