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struggle4progress Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jan-21-07 06:22 PM
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Republicans in Congress are reaching for life vests
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Posted on Sun, Jan. 21, 2007
By Jacob Weisberg

... Should you happen to be a moderate, or from the Northeast, or facing a tough re-election campaign in 2008, the imperative is clear: Abandon ship. As even his bitter-enders acknowledge, Bush's Iraq policy just cost the GOP control of Congress. And the 2008 election, when 22 of the 34 open Senate seats will belong to Republicans, could make 2006 look like a picnic. Those already reaching for life vests include such vulnerable purple-state incumbents as Norm Coleman of Minnesota, Gordon Smith of Oregon and Susan Collins of Maine.

If you're a Republican running for president rather than for re-election, the decision about backing Bush is different. It's about the views of conservative primary voters, not swing voters in a general election. This explains why the three candidates who face the most conservative skepticism -- Sen. John McCain of Arizona, former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney -- have all opted to endorse the surge idea ...

Many congressional Republicans who are not running for president probably share Hagel's anti-war views, but fear the wrath of the party's disciplinarians if they speak out. An object lesson was recently provided by Jeff Flake, a GOP congressman from Arizona who lost a coveted Judiciary Committee seat as punishment for siding with the Democrats on a reform vote against ``earmarks.'' Johnny-come-lately doubters also face the problem of explaining why they're changing their minds after supporting Bush's war for the past four years. For most of them, the safest course is to sound skeptical without crossing Bush directly, while hoping that Democrats miscalculate by trying to cut off funding to the troops.

... Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky last week called Bush's surge speech ``courageous and correct.'' House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio says the plan offers ``our best shot at victory in Iraq.'' It doesn't much matter if they really think so. If your job is to keep order on a sinking ship, you can't very well run for the lifeboats yourself. We saw these types during Watergate as well -- Bush's father, then chairman of the Republican National Committee, was one of them. The greatest was the comically loyal Earl Landgrebe, a now forgotten Indiana congressman. ``Don't confuse me with the facts,'' Landgrebe said the day before Nixon resigned. ``I'm going to stick with my president even if he and I have to be taken out of this building and shot.'' That remains the default Republican position. It's going to be sorely tested in the months ahead.
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