- The Washington Times - Monday, January 22, 2007

Sen. John McCain yesterday said voting for a resolution disapproving of President Bush’s troop-surge idea would be a slap at the 21,000 new troops that would be sent to Iraq under the plan, putting the upcoming congressional debate on the Iraq war in stark terms.

Mr. McCain and other Republicans also signaled their worry over Gen. George Casey’s nomination to become Army chief of staff, signaling another possible congressional fight for Mr. Bush with his own party as he tries to move forward on his new Iraq strategy.

“I have very serious concerns about General Casey’s nomination,” Mr. McCain said on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” arguing Gen. Casey’s record in Iraq may not merit the new post and would send a wrong message to the troops.

Mr. Bush has announced he will commit more than 17,000 more soldiers to Baghdad to try to help Iraqi national police and military units quell Sunni-Shi’ite violence, and said he will send 4,000 Marines to go after al Qaeda fighters in Anbar province.

Top Senate Democrats, joined by a leading dissident Republican, last week announced a resolution opposing Mr. Bush’s plan. Senate Democratic leaders have promised to force a floor vote, and House Democratic leaders said they are working on their own similar resolution. The resolution is not binding on Mr. Bush, but the lawmakers hope the signal it would send would cause him to change course.

Both Republicans and Democrats used yesterday’s round of talk shows to try to build support for their positions heading into what is shaping up as a major showdown.

Sen. Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Democrats must unify behind the resolution, though, or risk a fracture that could deliver a public victory to Mr. Bush.

“The worst thing we can do is to vote on something which is critical of the current policy and lose it,” Mr. Levin, one of the authors of the resolution, said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Pulling further to the left are those such as Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat. He said troop escalations have failed in other parts of Iraq in the past, and said the one idea that hasn’t been tried is “de-escalation.”

“That’s a policy, which I believe, then, will require the Iraqi government to assume responsibility for their security, rather than now sending additional troops, which will be an additional crutch for the Iraqi government in delaying their judgment decision in order to take the security,” he said.

Mr. Kennedy has his own bill that would force the president to come back to Congress for permission to broaden the war. He said if Mr. Bush ignores the will of Congress as expressed in upcoming votes, lawmakers should then defund the war.

“If we have a president that is going to effectively defy the American people, are going to defy the generals, defy the majority of a Congress of the United States in Republicans and Democrats, then we, I think, have a responsibility to end the funding for the war,” he said on NBC. “Are we really being more loyal to our troops, putting them in the midst of a civil war?”

Mr. McCain, who is exploring a run for president, is now closely tied to the troop-surge idea, even though he said that his choice would be to send still more troops to make sure they get the job done.

“I promise you, if we fail here, there will be plenty enough blame to go around to everyone, including to me,” Mr. McCain said, acknowledging that he is so tied to the plan that Democrats now call it the “Bush-McCain increase.”

He said the Democrats’ resolution would be a slap at the troops Mr. Bush is preparing to send.

“This resolution is basically a vote of no confidence in the men and women we are sending over there,” he said. “We’re saying, ‘We’re sending you — we’re not going to stop you from going there, but we don’t believe you can succeed, and we’re not willing to support that.’ I don’t think the troops would find that an expression of support.”

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