Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Senate Dems plan Iraq timetables again: an analysis

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid plans to attach two Iraq timetable amendments to the 2008 defense appropriations bill.

Without immediately looking at the possibility of success, there are two incidents which do bring this back to the forefront (not counting Congressional Democrats’ sagging approval ratings as an “incident”).

First is Gen. Martin Dempsey’s admission that training of Iraq army and security forces remains inadequate, even woefully so:

Describing the U.S. effort in Iraq as a labor of Sisyphus, he said the metaphoric stone is “probably rolling back a bit right now in Baghdad. But I don't think it's going to roll over us.”

Dempsey depicted the level of violence tolerated by Iraqis as “mind-numbing” and acknowledged that a dearth of security has made some Iraqis nostalgic for the rule of Saddam Hussein, who was ousted by the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. “You’ll hear people say, ‘You know, we were a lot more secure and safe during the Saddam regime,’ “ he told the oversight panel of the House Armed Services Committee.

Second is Maine Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe’s direct blaming of Bush, and Bush’s stubbornness MO, for the 2006 loss of the Senate:
Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) said she thinks her former GOP colleagues Sens. Mike DeWine (Ohio) and Lincoln Chafee (R.I.) lost reelection because of Bush’s unpopularity.

“It’s definitely because of the president and his policies, more from the standpoint of immovability and not being willing to adjust policies in response to real-time circumstances,” she said. “It wasn’t just the fact that things weren’t working well in Iraq, it was the president wasn’t willing to adjust his policy to recognize and acknowledge that.”

Last year’s losses at the polls have shaped her Republican colleagues’ view of the president in 2007, she said, adding, “All of that had manifested itself in ways this year, leading to concerns about the president’s policies.”

Now, we’ve heard enough of this in the past, but, as the drip, drip, drip of not-so-good news from people like Gen. Dempsey picks up, senators and representatives may in fact start distancing themselves more.

So, where does this all lead?

Key for seeing how Republicans move is seeing how this plays out in their presidential primaries battle. Already, while trying to out-macho each other on terrorism in general, most GOP candidates not named McCain are trying to detach from Iraq itself, and even Big John has been somewhat critical.

Reid has plenty of GOP senator sound-bite quotes, in other words. Let’s see how well he plays his cards.

Because, between discontentment over Democrats’ previous “cave” and knowing how the Rovian PR machine works, Reid (and Speaker Pelosi) need to have their own PR work ready in advance. That’s where quotes from GOP presidential debates and elsewhere on the hustings will come in handy — rhetorically asking GOP senators if they want to be sticking their necks out at the same time their would-be presidential nominees are drawing theirs in?

Cross-posted at Socratic Gadfly.