Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) is the latest Republican leader to break ranks with the Bush Administration, calling the administration’s Iraq policy “disconnected from reality.”
Hagel, in an interview in the June 27 issue of U.S. News & World Report, said he’s angered by the 1,700 U.S. soldiers dead and nearly 13,000 wounded in Iraq. But he’s also aggravated by the Bush Administration’s never-ending propaganda campaign — telling Americans to ignore their television sets and agree with their sunny assessments of the war.
“Things aren’t getting better; they’re getting worse. The White House is completely disconnected from reality,” Hagel told the magazine. “It’s like they’re just making it up as they go along. The reality is that we’re losing in Iraq. … More and more of my colleagues up here are concerned.”
That makes 10 Republican Senators who have spoken out — dare I say, taken “leadership positions” — against the Bush Administration in less than a month. It’s a list that covers topics such as whether to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center, protecting U.S. consumers from the administration’s drug industry pals, and preventing Bush lackey Bill Frist (R-TN) from being able to employ the “nuclear option,” upending the Senate’s rules on filibusters.
The list of 10, if you are scoring at home, is now:
– John McCain of Arizona
– Mel Martinez of Florida
– Charles Grassley of Iowa
– Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine
– Mike DeWine of Ohio
– Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island
– Lindsey Graham of South Carolina
– John Warner of Virginia
Critics of criticism — that rare brand of conservative who believes in free speech only when it’s tied to some sort of loyalty oath — would identify the New England Senators as “liberal Republicans” (gasp), and DeWine, Graham, Hagel and McCain as possible 2008 presidential candidates (harrumph).
Let’s not be naive. While politicians want to keep one eye on their constituent’s best interests, they’re keeping the other eye, both ears, their nose, mouth, arms, legs and tushy on their viability as elected officials.
The “you’re with us or you’re un-American” attitude of the Bush administration works better when Bush’s popularity is soaring. It’s not right now. And on issues like the rising cost — financial and human — of Iraq, and our treatment of detainees at Gitmo, Bush’s popularity has fallen to very uncomfortable levels. Abandon the ship levels.
Of course, 10 out of 55 is still a modest number. And on key issues like Iraq, don’t expect the White House to stray from its “my way or the highway approach.”
The White House has planned a new public-relations push by the president to shore up support for the Iraq War. During his weekly radio address on June 18, Bush once again seamlessly weaved together the “war on terror” with the Iraq War:
BUSH: We went to war because we were attacked, and we are at war today because there are still people out there who want to harm our country and hurt our citizens. Some may disagree with my decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power, but all of us can agree that the world’s terrorists have now made Iraq a central front in the war on terror. … The terrorists know they cannot defeat our troops, so they seek to weaken our nation’s resolve. They know there is no room for them in a free and democratic Middle East, so the terrorists and insurgents are trying to get us to retreat.
It’s a classic Bush text from the Karl Rove/Frank Luntz school of imagemaking. Bush doesn’t want to spell out that we were attacked by Al Qaeda terrorists, nearly all of whom were Saudi, headed by Osama bin Laden, who is still at large, and apparently financed in part by Iran.
Bushspeak allows for bait-and-switch. Al Qaeda becomes morphed into the Iraqi insurgency. Why are we at war with Iraq? Because “the world’s terrorists have now made Iraq a central front in the war on terror.” It may be a self-fulfilling prophecy, but it’s red meat for Bush’s conservative following. Why should we support the Bush plan in Iraq? Not because Bush has a sound exit strategy, but because the terrorists “seek to weaken our nation’s resolve.”
The public relations offensive also includes a June 28 meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jafari — that’s the anniversary of the handover of power to an Iraqi government from U.S. authorities.
But Republicans like Hagel say they are tired of public relations. They want results.
“If things don’t start to turn around in six months, then it may be too late,” Hagel told US News & World Report. “I think it’s that serious.”
This article first appeared on Journalists Against Bush’s B.S. (JABBS)