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Republican Senators and The Choice Before Them: Get It Right Or Get Out

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Bill Kristol writes bluntly about the choice facing Republican senators next week.  It is a piece that will circulate throughout the Beltway this weekend, hopefully to good effect. But even Kristol understates the fury that is building among party regulars towards senators who have thrown in with Carl Levin to, as Howard Dean put it, “repudiate the president’s policy.”  (The same anger is building towards the House leadership’s embrace of me-too defeatism embodied in Republican Leader Boehner’s resolution, though there the error is a blunder, not a purposeful one, and might yet be corrected by the withdrawal of the resolution.)

On May 7, 1940, a debate took place in the British House of Commons on the necessity of removing Chamberlain from the leadership of the country.  William Manchester recounts the debate in detail in Alone, but of the handful of key speeches made that day, one by Leo Amery stands out as relevant to the Congressional Republicans 67 years later.  Amery was, with Churchill, an anti-appeaser.  Like Churchill he had also been a journalist before beginning his career in Parliament, and thus had a command of words and history. 

“We are fighting today for our life, for our liberty, for our all,” Amery told the House.  “We cannot go on being led as we are.”

“Somehow or other,” he argued, “we must get into the Government men who can match our enemies in fighting spirit, in daring, in resolution and in thirst for victory.”

Amery was staring straight at Chamberlain when he reached the climax of his speech:

I have quoted certain words of Oliver Cromwell.  I will quote certain other words.  I do it with great reluctance, because I am speaking of those who are old friends and associates of mine, but they are words which, I think, are applicable to the present situation.  This is what Cromwell said to the Long Parliament when he thought it was no longer fit to conduct the affairs of the nation:

“You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing.  Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go.”

Yesterday the presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party, Senator Clinton, unequivocally declared that she would, if elected, end the war in January, 2009, which can only mean the sudden withdrawal of American troops from Iraq regardless of the situation there.  Senator Clinton is to be praised for her candor: She is pledged to the return of the policies that animated her husband’s eight years in the White House,policies of indifference to radical Islamists which led to 9/11 and the North Korean and Iranian nuclear crises  –the refusal to take seriously that which is deadly serious.

The men who are the only serious obstacles to her nomination are even more stridently for appeasement wrapped in willful ignorance of the enemy.  This week Iranians have been captured in Gaza.  They arm and direct Hezbollah.  They have been engaged in the killing of Americans, and may be becoming even more bold in their provocations.  They are closing in on nukes. 

Even as the radical Shias headquartered in Tehran advance, the radical Sunni in al Qaeda continue to plot and to kill.

And yet all the Democrats who want to be president want to withdraw from Iraq and pretend that all is well with the world.

To this studied blindness and ruinous indifference to the facts of the threat the Congressional Republicans must provide firm and detailed arguments.  The McCain-Lieberman-Cornyn resolution is far from perfect, but it isn’t defeatist or indulgent of the myth of retreat to safety.Supporting it or the Levin-Warner resolution is a stark choice that faces every Republican senator.

As I have often written and said over the past two weeks, I won’t support any Republican senator who supports Levin-Warner, and I won’t support the NRSC if it supports any such senator.  Senator McConnell declared on my program yesterday that the NRSC will continue to support all incumbents regardless of how they vote on the war, so if Levin-Warner comes to a vote and Warner does not abandon his own resolution, and Senators Collins and Hagel with him, I and thousands of others will be done with the NRSC for another cycle.  Either you believe the war is as serious and as dangerous as even  most senators will declare, or you don’t.  if you do, you cannot support the Democrats’ push for retreat at this difficult time –which will only be one of many difficult times in the years ahead. 

Kristol writes:

Some seven GOP senators are said to be wavering between the Democratic resolution and the McCain Graham-Lieberman alternative supporting Gen. Petraeus and the troops. They are Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Sam Brownback of Kansas, Norm Coleman of Minnesota, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, John Sununu of New Hampshire, and George Voinovich of Ohio. Alexander, Coleman, and Sununu are up for reelection in 2008. Some or all of the seven may still choose to stand with the president and the troops, and to give Petraeus a chance. This would leave the Democratic resolution short of the 60 votes needed to end debate. Perhaps the four ignominious ones could even reconsider and sign on with McCain, Graham, and Lieberman (whose resolution of support includes, incidentally, “benchmarks” of performance that the Iraqi government is expected to meet).

In any case, Republican senators up for reelection in 2008 might remember this: The American political system has primaries as well as general elections. In 1978 and 1980, as Reagan conservatives took over the party from d


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