A Republican leadership strategy memo calls for an all-out attack on Democrats' "misinformation" campaign against the Iraq war as both parties refocus on the issue ahead of next week's update from Army Gen. David H. Petraeus and Ryan C. Crocker, U.S. ambassador to Iraq.
The memo instructs Capitol Hill Republicans to court conservative bloggers on conference calls and talk-radio hosts — including by holding a nationwide "radio row"on April 9 — to fend off Democrats' desire to "ignore reality and insist on immediate retreat."
A copy of the memo obtained by The Washington Times says outreach should focus on touting U.S. military success in reducing violence, fostering political progress by the Iraqi government and the need to quickly pass war funds unfettered by Democrats' pullout mandates. It suggests coordinating the message's delivery with outside groups, such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion.
House Minority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, will address the American Legion today and demand lawmakers honor U.S. troops by giving them the tools and support needed for victory.
"There is a Latin phrase I'm fond of: 'Facta, Non Verba.' In English, it means 'Deeds, Not Words,' " Mr. Boehner says in his prepared remarks.
"Instead of talking about surrender, we should be putting our energy into making sure these men and women return home to the loving arms of the nation they left — and making certain all our veterans feel the enduring gratitude of those they fought to protect," he says in his statement.
"This is why the Republican budget for the coming fiscal year provided $49.2 billion for veterans' health care in fiscal year 2009 — $1 billion more than the Democratic budget."
The war issue has been eclipsed lately by the country's economic downturn, prompting Democratic leaders to point to the slow pace of political reconciliation in Iraq, more than 4,000 U.S. troops killed and the war's high price tag — more than $500 billion.
"Money spent in Iraq is desperately needed at home to educate our children, rebuild our infrastructure and provide health care for millions of Americans," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said last week in a likely preview of Democrats' war-debate strategy.
"Rather than offering more rhetoric that continues to be divorced from reality, the president owes it to those bravely serving in Iraq today, and to their fallen comrades, a plan to bring an end to this tragedy," she said.
Democrats are countering with their own media blitz and touting national surveys that demonstrate popular dissatisfaction with the war.
They cite a recent Associated Press/Ipsos poll that shows 68 percent of voters think a troop pullout from Iraq would help fix problems with the U.S. economy.
Iraq is expected to regain prominence this month as lawmakers consider the supplemental $102.5 billion request for 2008 war spending, which Democratic leaders plan to link to a pullout plan, and as the administration's top officials in Iraq deliver war reports mandated by the Democrat-led Congress.
Mr. Crocker and Gen. Petraeus, U.S. commander in Iraq, are scheduled to appear April 8 before Senate committees and April 9 before House committees.
The general is expected to recommend halting troop reductions while the security situation is assessed, keeping about 140,000 troops in Iraq until the fall. That force level is about 10,000 troops more than before the surge began about a year ago.
The Republican memo says caucus members should focus on "delivering a steady stream of facts to interested parties, whether it's editorial boards, D.C. and regional media, network and cable TV news," and highlight favorable polling data.
Although more than 60 percent of Americans regularly want to bring home the troops within a year, about one-third say troops should stay until the mission is complete. Rasmussen Reports last week said that 47 percent of likely voters believe the U.S. and its allies are winning the war on terrorism, up from about 33 percent at the beginning of the year.
"Wrong-headed attempts to pull out of Iraq before we have won will mean chaos and even genocide in the region, and greater danger for America," said the memo.
President Bush, in a speech last week, hit on the themes outlined in the memo. He stressed the security and political situation in Iraq and the defeatist outlook of war opponents.
"But there's one thing that is consistent. No matter what shortcomings these critics diagnose, their prescription is always the same — retreat."
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