Friday, January 26, 2007

WH will accept benchmarks/deadlines for surge


A top GOP staffer says more than 70 senators would oppose the surge if their vote matched their comments in private meetings. "The White House is trying to but they really don't know how to handle this," said a senior GOP aide involved in the talks.

White House officials are pleading with GOP senators to oppose any congressional resolution that specifically condemns Bush's effort to escalate the war effort in coming months, congressional sources said Friday morning. In private conversations, the officials are telling senators that the resolution would demoralize U.S. troops and hurt the GOP politically for years to come.

Bush allies are arguing that Republicans will damage their individual political interests as well. Their logic is that there is no anti-war constituency inside the Republican Party, pointing specifically to Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., a potential presidential candidate who has opposed the surge but not gained much traction with party activists. "That's a flat argument," the senior aide said. "That does not work."

On a more substantive level, White House officials are arguing that U.S. commanders are confident the escalation will work, but only if Iraqis and world leaders understand the plan has congressional backing. The White House has sent signals that it would stomach a resolution establishing firm deadlines and accountability requirements as long as it does not outright condemn the surge, congressional sources said.

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