Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Senate Republicans Now Want to Know

Time was that if anyone suggested to the White House that they should outline a plan for the ending of the war in Iraq, the administration and the Republicans would say “Oh, no! We can’t tell anyone! That would tip our hands to the evil-doers!” Yeah, well, that was then. Now, however, the Republicans in the Senate are getting a little — or a lot — nervous about both the future of the war and their own future politically to the point that they are copy-catting the Democrats’ call for a timetable to get out of Iraq.

In a sign of increasing unease among Congressional Republicans over the war in Iraq, the Senate is to consider on Tuesday a Republican proposal that calls for Iraqi forces to take the lead next year in securing the nation and for the Bush administration to lay out its strategy for ending the war.


The proposal on the Iraq war, from Senator Bill Frist, the majority leader, and Senator John W. Warner, Republican of Virginia, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, would require the administration to provide extensive new quarterly reports to Congress on subjects like progress in bringing in other countries to help stabilize Iraq. The other appeals related to Iraq are nonbinding and express the position of the Senate.

The plan stops short of a competing Democratic proposal that moves toward establishing dates for a phased withdrawal of troops from Iraq. But it is built upon the Democratic approach and makes it clear that senators of both parties are increasingly eager for Iraqis to take control of their country in coming months and open the door to removing American troops.

Mr. Warner said the underlying message was, “we really mean business, Iraqis, get on with it.” The senator, an influential party voice on military issues, said he did not interpret the wording of his plan as critical of the administration, describing it as a “forward-looking” approach.

“It is not a question of satisfaction or dissatisfaction,” he said. “This reflects what has to be done.”

Democrats said the plan represented a shift in Republican sentiment on Iraq and was an acknowledgment of growing public unrest with the course of the war and the administration’s frequent call for patience. “I think it signals the fact that the American people are demanding change, and the Republicans see that that’s something that they have to follow,” said Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader.

I think it’s just as intriguing as hell that the Republicans are taking to cutting-and-pasting Democratic resolutions — up to a point. They still chicken out on the “timetable” idea; after all, Kool-Aid does leave an aftertaste.

The primary differences between the party approaches regards fixing dates for a withdrawal. The Democratic plan called for the administration to provide “estimated dates” for redeployment of American troops once a series of conditions was met, with the caveat that “unexpected contingencies may arise.”

But Republicans said that provision was cutting too close to setting a schedule for withdrawal. “We are not going to have any timetable,” Mr. Warner said.

Pardon my slaughtering of Latin, but I think that comes out, Senator Warner, as a vain attempt at dignita intacta.