GOP Fracture About Iraq?
Is it possible that the ground has shifted out from under the Administration on Iraq with its own party over the last week or so? As Paradox noted in a post over the weekend, Bush’s veto of the first war funding bill and the White House’s surprise at the Democrats’ willingness to send another one right back at them without any negotiation or cave-in has left the GOP with a war soon without funding, being fought on behalf of a government that seems unwilling to help itself.
As ThinkProgress noted this morning, there are numerous indications that the House and Senate GOP no longer want to rubber-stamp Bush’s war without strings. It was just several days ago that some of the more conservative GOP members in the House were crowing that we would never leave Iraq until every last vestige of Al Qaeda was eliminated from that country. This was laughable not only because Bush is the one who let Al Qaeda into the country, but also because at most there are no more than several thousand Al Qaeda forces inside the country. And yet we are directing the majority of our forces not at Al Qaeda in a unified effort with Shiites and Sunnis, but instead at policing a civil war with a failing surge without the support of the Iraqi government. Over the last several days, there are now indications that the GOP has seen the growing discontent and impending loss of support amongst the military brass for a surge they originally opposed extending now into 2008. This has forced the administration to talk with Iran directly about Iraq, something they should have done upon the release of the ISG report months ago.
One passage from a Post story over the weekend was noteworthy to me, because Dick Cheney showed how out of touch the White House is with the new political reality inside the Beltway, or of a GOP that is feeling desperate. Cheney wanted to pull John Murtha out of a meeting with Stephen Hadley to ask him what the Democrats planned to do next on war funding. It seems from the story that the White House was caught off guard that the Democrats wouldn’t cave in after the veto and immediate negotiate to give Bush another blank check. Instead, Pelosi told the White House that there would be no negotiations directly with the White House until work started at the conference committee with the Senate on a unified congressional direction. It appears that the White House is unprepared to deal with an opposing political force that is being pushed along by a base that discourages compromise, at a time when the GOP itself realizes that the time for a course change is now.
We are now seeing stories that conservative Republicans in the House and Senate share the frustration of moderates and liberals about the lack of progress in the war, and the lack of credibility from this White House. Mitch McConnell went so far yesterday as to say that the next funding bill will definitely have benchmarks in it, and that if the Iraqi parliament voted for an exit timeline, then we should heed them and leave.
What these vulnerable 2008 GOP incumbents see is an administration suffering from isolation and internal battles about how to proceed in Iraq, at a time when it is they who will pay a price next year for their lock-step support of this administration’s debacle in Iraq. But is this a mirage or an accurate picture of a GOP that is in the first stages of a fracture over Iraq?