Some in GOP join Democrats in bashing plan
Bush ‘surge’ in Iraq greeted with mixed response from his own party
Obama says Iraq plan 'wrong-headed'
Jan. 11: Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., discusses Bush's new Iraq strategy and what Congress can do to constrain it.
Video: Bush Iraq plan
House Dems push 2008 troop withdrawal
March 8: House Democrats are hoping a new poll showing pessimism about the war in Iraq will lend weight to planned legislation that would require a combat troop withdrawal. NBC's Chip Reid reports.
President Bush’s plan to increase the U.S. troop commitment in Iraq met with strong opposition Wednesday night from Democrats who hold a majority in Congress and a decidedly mixed response from Republicans who could make or break the policy.
In a nationally televised speech, the president said he would send 21,500 U.S. troops to Iraq to stem sectarian violence.
From the moment details of Bush’s plans began emerging last week, Democratic congressional leaders have thrown their support behind efforts to find a legislative roadblock to sending more troops.
“Twenty thousand American soldiers are too few to end this civil war in Iraq and too many to risk,” Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin, D-Ill., said in the Democrats’ televised response to Bush’s address.
The Iraqi government “must know ... that every time they call 911, we are not going to send 20,000 soldiers to Iraq,” he said.
Noting opinion polls that more than 60 percent of the American people oppose sending more troops, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., a probable 2008 president contender, said, “The politics are pretty clear — the American people spoke in November.”
With Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania and Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts having announced their intentions to introduce legislation to kill any funding for an expansion of the U.S. troop presence, Obama told MSNBC-TV’s Keith Olbermann: “I am going to actively oppose the president’s proposal. I don’t doubt his sincerity when he says he thinks this is the best approach, but I think he is wrong, and I think the American people believe he is wrong.”
Republican support eroding
More problematic for Bush is the sharply stated opposition of several key Republican lawmakers as Democratic leaders seek their support to override a presidential veto of a congressional move to quash his plans.
“This is a dangerously wrong-headed strategy that will drive America deeper into an unwinnable swamp at a great cost,” Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement.
Hagel, saying it was “wrong to place American troops into the middle of Iraq’s civil war,” warned that Bush’s plan would “cost more American lives, sink us deeper into the bog of Iraq; making it more difficult to get out; cost billions of dollars more; [and] further strain an American military that has already reached its breaking point.”
Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas, an influential spokesman for conservative congressional Republicans, said that, after recently visiting Iraq for meetings with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, he was convinced that the solution in Iraq had to be a political one, not a military one.
“I do not believe that sending more troops to Iraq is the answer,” said Brownback, who, like Hagel, is believed to be exploring a presidential bid. “We cannot achieve a political solution while a military solution is imposed. The best way to reach a democratic Iraq is to empower the Iraqis to take responsibility for their own nation building.”
Two other congressional Republicans influential in foreign policy, Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, a member of the Armed Services Committee, and George Voinovich of Ohio, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, voiced similar responses. “In Baghdad, the violence is clearly sectarian, and I don’t think more troops is the answer to the sectarian violence,” Collins said.
Senate Republican leader on board
Other Republican lawmakers, most notably Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. — who would lead the fight against Democratic opposition in the Senate — backed Bush’s new policy.
“I think Prime Minister Maliki knows that time is running out for him and for his government, and that it’s time to participate in what they and us agree is essential, which is a relatively quiet Baghdad,” McConnell said. “It doesn't have to be any safer than Los Angeles or New York. But a relatively safe Baghdad is an essential element to having a functioning government.”
Bush also got a vote of confidence from former New York Gov. Rudolph Giuliani, whose visibility after the 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington helped make him a symbol of Bush’s “war on terror.”
“I support the president’s increase in troops,” Giuliani, another probable 2008 presidential contender, said in a statement. “Even more importantly, I support the change in strategy — the focus on security and the emphasis on a political and economic solution — as being even more important than a military solution.”
MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann and NBC’s Keith Strickland contributed to this report.
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