The Facts Machine

"And I come back to you now, at the turn of the tide"

Sunday, September 19, 2004

GETTIN' OUT IN FRONT OF YE SINKIN' SHIP

The Moderate GOP Senators came out swinging on Iraq this morning:
Leading members of President Bush's Republican Party on Sunday criticized mistakes and "incompetence" in his Iraq policy and called for an urgent ground offensive to retake insurgent sanctuaries.

In appearances on news talk shows, Republican senators also urged Bush to be more open with the American public after the disclosure of a classified CIA report that gave a gloomy outlook for Iraq and raised the possibility of civil war.

"The fact is, we're in deep trouble in Iraq ... and I think we're going to have to look at some recalibration of policy," Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska said on CBS's "Face the Nation."

"We made serious mistakes," said Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican who has campaigned at Bush's side this year after patching up a bitter rivalry.

McCain, speaking on "Fox News Sunday," cited as mistakes the toleration of looting after the successful U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and failures to secure Iraq's borders or prevent insurgents from establishing strongholds within the country.
And then McCain gets cute:
After the CIA report was disclosed on Thursday, Kerry accused the president of living in a "fantasy world of spin" about Iraq and of not telling the truth about the growing chaos.

McCain said Bush had been "perhaps not as straight as maybe we'd like to see."

"I think the president is being clear. I would like to see him more clear," McCain said. He said Congress was expected to hold hearings on Iraq soon.
And Lugar takes over on the reconstruction:
Sen. Richard Lugar, an Indiana Republican and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also criticized the administration's handling of Iraq's reconstruction.

Only $1 billion of $18.4 billion allocated by Congress for the task has been spent, Lugar said. "This is the incompetence in the administration," he said on ABC's "This Week."
What possibilities arr at play here?

Maybe the McCain/Lugar/Hagel crowd is genuinely concerned about the way the situation in Iraq has deteriorated. When you adjust their choice of words for the sliding "remember, they're from Bush's party" scale, those criticisms become much more harsh, even if they are coming from moderates.

Maybe they're looking to distance themselves from the administration for political/electoral purposes. Or maybe, to expand on the previous point, they know that the rosier Bush's "fantasy world of spin" on Iraq is, the bigger the albatross it could become for him (and the GOP), especially given John Kerry's intent to focus on Iraq for the remainder of the campaign. Thus, they're giving Bush a nudge to get out in front of the issue, to the extent that he can at this point. I'd say it's a bit of everything.

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