Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Republican Candidates Distance Themselves from Bush's Iraq Policy

As they take a good look at the polls, a growing number of Republican candidates are suddenly distancing themselves from Bush's Iraq policy. There are several different ways in which they do this. Some, like perpetual presidential candidate, John McCain, try to criticize the way in which Bush has conducted the war without criticizing the general policy. Other Republicans distance themselves from Bush but try to split the difference between themselves and their respective Democratic candidates. A few Republicans are even beginning to sound like Democrats. Bush's failed presidency is not a pretty sight these days.

The ever observant E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post has some excellent particulars on the story but here's the general picture he offers:
August 2006 will be remembered as a watershed in the politics of Iraq. It is the month in which a majority of Americans told pollsters that the struggle for Iraq was not connected to the larger war on terrorism. They thus renounced a proposition the administration has pushed relentlessly since it began making the case four years ago to invade Iraq.

(snip)

The cracking of Republican solidarity in support of Bush on Iraq has short-term implications for November's elections and long-term implications for whether the administration can sustain its policies.

With a growing number of Republicans now echoing Democratic criticisms of the war, Republican strategists will have a harder time making the election a referendum on whether the United States should "cut and run" from Iraq, the administration's typical characterization of the Democrats' view.

Remember, these are the same Republicans who have been reluctant for the last four years to question Bush closely on the sources of his flawed intelligence claims, or to demand explanations for his frequently changing case for war in Iraq or to hold Bush accountable as blunder after blunder became painfully obvious. These are the same Republicans who sat on their hands month after month in the chambers of Congress giving Bush a completely free hand even through most of this summer. Now they're on recess, looking at the polls. One cannot look at the votes of many of these Republicans and say their current words on the campaign trail have anything to do with their voting record over the last four years. I have no problem with people who honestly throw in the towel and admit that Iraq has been a poorly conceived policy and a fiasco, but the time that Republicans should have shown a bit of wisdom and political courage was months ago on the floor of the House or Senate. A vote of no confidence in Donald Rumsfeld would have been one such act.

Given the nature of the current Republican party, it is likely that what we are seeing are desperate candidates putting their fingers up to see which way the wind is blowing. One might call most of them opportunists. And if all we have these days is the word of a right wing Republican without a single vote to back up that word, that's not much good, is it? And I'm not terribly sympathetic to ordinary Republican conservatives and even the handful of moderates who jumped on Bush's radical right wing bandwagon knowing full well the policies, integrity and competence of Bush and his advisers have been in doubt for a long time now. Serious damage has been done; it will take time to repair. I hope voters keep that in mind.

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