Tuesday, July 25, 2006

For One Senate Candidate, the 'R' Is a 'Scarlet Letter'

A GOP Senate candidate expressed dissent, loudly if anonymously, with the White House, pointing to President Bush's post-Sept. 11 pose with a firefighter and his post-Katrina flyovers as signs of a "disconnect."


....The candidate (a Republican in a competitive Senatorial race) gave the luncheon briefing (Monday) to nine reporters from newspapers, magazines and networks under the condition that he be identified only as a GOP Senate candidate....(H)is willingness to speak so critically, if anonymously, about the party he will represent on Election Day points to a growing sense among Republicans that if they are to retain their majorities in Congress, they may have to throw the president under the train in all but the safest, reddest states.

It's not an ideological matter. Even as he berated the president, the candidate allowed that he opposes a pullout from Iraq, agrees with Bush's veto of human embryonic stem cell research, and supports constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage and flag burning....


The source of the candidate's anger -- and his anxiety -- is the Iraq war, which he called "the single thread that is weaving through every issue," including high gas prices and the violence in Lebanon. "People want an honest assessment from the administration, and they want to hear the administration admit we thought this, and it didn't happen that way, and -- guess what -- it didn't work, so we're going to try a Plan B."...


"In 2001, we were attacked and the president is on the ground, on a mound with his arm around the fireman, symbol of America," he said, between bites of hanger steak and risotto. "In Katrina, the president is at 30,000 feet in an airplane looking down at people dying, living on a bridge. And that disconnect, I think, sums up, for me at least, the frustration that Americans feel."

The response to Katrina was "a monumental failure," he continued. "We became so powerful in our ivory towers, in our gated communities. We forgot that there are poor people." The detachment remained after the storm, he said. "I could see that they weren't getting it, they weren't necessarily clued in. . . . For me, the seminal moment was the (Dubai) port decision."...

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