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“Senators Also Said They Were Beginning To Realize That The Vote, While Nonbinding, Would Be An Important Statement On Congressional Sentiment Regarding The War.”

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Oh, you mean like the troops, our Iraqi allies, and the enemy might be watching?

The New York Times’  story on the Senate’s dance of the resolutions throws the paper behind John McCain’s and Lindsey Graham’s “Gang of 14,” er, “benchmarks” draft in an attempt to leave the impression that the McCain resolution is the one favored by people serious about victory.

It isn’t, of course, and won’t be so long as it telegraphs contingent support for victory, which the langauge of “benchmarks” does.  “Benchmarks” is Senate code for “we are out of here” later rather than sooner.

If Senator McCain insists on “benchmarks,” the damage to his 2008 presidential ambitions will be lasting, as the significant majority of Republican voters don’t want to be 50% for failure or 50% for victory.  “We win, they lose,” is the preferred resolution of the GOP’s base.  See ThePledge for background.

Here’s the key passage of the story intended to help McCain out of another McCain-created political jam:

In advance of a possible Senate vote on the resolutions, Republican senators now appear widely divided over how to proceed. In trying to head off the resolution supported by Senators Warner and Collins, allies of the White House appear to be trying to muster at least the 41 votes they would need to prevent a vote on the measure under Senate rules. Mr. McCain is sponsoring the competing resolution that would establish benchmarks for the Iraqi government. He said the proposal also could be fashioned to give Congress more oversight.

Republicans were viewing Mr. McCain’s plan as a way to deter Republicans from joining in the resolutions more critical of Mr. Bush, and many Republicans said that would be preferable to one criticizing the troop buildup outright. Senators also said they were beginning to realize that the vote, while nonbinding, would be an important statement on Congressional sentiment regarding the war.

Lousy reporting if you want specificity as to which Republicans were supporting McCain’s resolution –Lindsey Graham, yes, and who else?–  and no mention of where the leader of the Senate’s victory Republicans, Jon Kyl is. (See Kyl’s piece in the Christian Science Monitor today.)  The story’s sentence “The senators have been joined in their effort by the Republican leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Senator John Cornyn of Texas and Senator David Vitter of Louisiana” purposely misleads as it gives the impression that these three have thrown their support behind Senator McCain’s resolution, when the Washington Post accurately reports that Senator Cornyn has his own draft (as does Senator Gregg and Isakson.) But then the Times’ story isn’t designed to accurately report what is going on in the Senate GOP caucus.  It is designed to rally a handful of GOP senators to the McCain resolution despite the obvious demand from the Republican base that they not side with either the Warner or McCain resolutions.

I wonder who provided the details to the “reporter?”

Republicans up for re-election should remind themselves of the wonders Senator McCain did for Mike DeWine with the Gang of 14 “compromise.”  Senator DeWine never recovered from that miscalculation.  Ohio was tough on Republicans last year, for plenty of reasons including the incompetence and corruption of the Taft administration.  But Mike DeWine never had a chance because he burnt his bridges in 2005 to conservatives serious about the courts.

Senator McCain faces a choice.  He can resume his prior role as one of the Senate’s leaders on the war, or he can continue his new role of leading benchmarker  –a benchmark on his way to a huge repudiation in the Republican nominating process.  Senators signing on to Warner/McCain also have to recognize that they are joining the new Gang of 14, and taking themselves out of contention for serious leadership in the future.

It is a defining moment, one of many that the Democrats will force on republicans in the months ahead unless Petraeus begins to bring order to Baghdad and stability to Iraq. Then the Democrats and the Republicans who sided with them will have to find a new story line.  The Democrat’s base won’t care.  The GOP’s won’t forget.

Note in the Times’ piece Senator Collins’ complaint that “There is a lot of pressure on people who could be with us not to be with us.”  Where that pressure is coming from is left unspecified, but it is of course coming from voters across the country outraged that Republicans are considering collapse as a legislative strategy, and doing so days after confirming General Petraeus without a single “no” vote.  Republican senators up for re-election are beginning to figure out that you can’t win with just the supporters of victory in Iraq, but you surely can’t win without them.  Throwing in with Warner, McCain or any resolution that equivocates on the necessity of victory or implies contingent as opposed to enduring support for victory will not be forgotten by the GOP activists and contributors.

Senator McCain needs to hear from you, again.

His Senate office phone is:  (202) 224-2235

His Senate office fax is: Fax (202)-228-2862

His Senate office e-mail is here.

His campaign phone is: (703) 418-2008

His campaign e-mail is here.

And here is the expanded list of contacts of other key senators:

Senator McConnell: Phone: (202) 224-2541 Fax: (202) 224-2499E-mail here.

Senator Lott: Phone: 202-224-6253 Fax: (202)-224-2262 E-mail here.

Senator Kyl: Phone: (202) 224-4521 Fax: (202) 224-2207 E-mail here.

Senator Ensign: (202)-224-6244 Fax: 202-228-2193. E-mail here.

Senator McCain: Phone: (202)-224-2235 Fax (202)-228-2862. E-mail here.

Senator Warner: Phone: (202) 224-2023 Fax: (202) 224-6295. E-mail here.

Senator Cornyn: Phone:202-224-2934 Fax: 202-228-2856. E-mail here.

Senator Smith: Phone: 202-224-3752 Fax: 202-228-3997. E-mail here.

Senator Coleman: Phone: 202-224-5641 Fax: 202-224-1152.E-mail here.

Finally, here is the contact information for Senator Brownback, who is about to completely dash his already small hopes of becoming the conservative alternative for GOP primary voters if Romney falters.  Senator Brownback is not mentioned in the Times’ story, but earlier reports had him somewhere in the Warner/McCain camp.  You can contact his presidential campaign here, or call his Senate office at  (202) 224-6521.  He has been trying to build his campaign on the idea of protecting human life from womb to death, and across the globe.  That agenda cannot advance by retreating from the field on which the most pivotal of the current battles is being waged.  Perhaps Senator Brownback will also recognize that in the days ahead and back victory in Iraq.



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