WASHINGTON, D.C.–With President Bush returning here today after a downer trip to Asia (no concrete results in
what President Hu diplomatically called meetings of “mutual benefit and win-win results”), the
Republicans are presenting the face of a party deeply
split over Iraq. The Bush administration’s failure to come up
with a serious plan to handle a flu pandemic is sure
to bring more criticism. And GM’s announced layoff of
30,000 is bad news coming as it does as the holidays
On the one hand, there are the hardliners Dick Cheney
and Donald Rumsfeld, brushing Bush aside while he
was in Asia getting set for a much-photographed bike ride and
then famously trying to escape reporters and running
into a locked door. On the other, there is a group of
Republicans senators, including the party’s
coming leaders, John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, openly breaking with Bush over the issue of torture.
Left in the dust is Bush himself. Last week he and
his spokespeople attacked Pennsylvania congressman
John Murtha, a former Marine colonel and decorated
Vietnam veteran who called for the troops to be withdrawn from Iraq. But over the weekend, Bush
backed off and praised Murtha, a Pennsylvania Democrat, as an
Yesterday on Meet the Press, Murtha
stuck by his plea for getting the troops out of Iraq:
I said a year ago–and you remember me saying this–we can’t win this militarily. The military has done everything they can do, so now it’s up to the politicians, up to us in Congress. Only we can send people to war and it’s up to us to find a way to solve this very difficult problem.
But Cheney, who has been secretly lobbying
against restrictions on torture, renewed the
administration’s hard line in a speech on Monday. Cheney warned that al Qaeda is out to build
an empire from Spain across North Africa through the
Middle East to Indonesia.
Cheney said U.S. withdrawal from Iraq would be a victory
for the terrorists, and declared, “What is not
legitimate, and what I will again say is dishonest and
reprehensible, is the suggestion by some U.S. senators
that the president of the United States or any member
of his administration purposely misled the American
people on prewar intelligence.”
The vice president did manage to call Murtha a “patriot,” but don’t he shouldn’t expect flowers from Murtha anytime soon.
Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld appeared on two Sunday talk shows to re-emphasize the government’s tough policy in Iraq.
“The enemy hears a big debate in the United
States, and they have to wonder: ‘Maybe all we have to
do is wait and we’ll win. We can’t win militarily.’
They know that. The battle is here in the United
States,” Rumsfeld said on Fox.
To Murtha’s demand for a redeployment, Rumsfeld on
CBS yesterday declared, “There is no doubt in my mind
that were we to pull out precipitously, the American
people would be in greater danger than they are
Two months ago General George Casey, the U.S.
commander in Iraq, said only one Iraqi battallion
appeared capable of fighting in Iraq. But yesterday
Rumsfeld hailed American success in training Iraqi security
forces, placing their total number at 212,000. Some have
argued fewer than 1,000 Iraqis can fight, but Rumsfeld
said that was a “red herring,” adding, “The Iraqi
security forces are out engaged in the fight.” The
defense chief said, “Some are in the lead, some are
working with us in tandem, others are working with us
where we have the lead, and that’s perfectly