President Bush is in Singapore. His top military commander in the Middle East appeared on Capitol Hill yesterday and "urged Congress to resist withdrawing American troops from Iraq any time soon, a stance that drew sharp disagreement from top Republicans and Democrats."
Gen. John "Abizaid was met with deep skepticism and doubt in the Senate, where even Republicans who have supported the war effort pointedly questioned his judgment on troop levels and his optimistic assessment of the capabilities of the Iraqi security forces," says the Los Angeles Times. "The criticism from such a broad spectrum of lawmakers - coming at the first Capitol Hill hearing on Iraq since Republicans were trounced in the midterm election and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld resigned - signaled a more active role by members of Congress in challenging the Bush administration about the war's conduct. Until now, Rumsfeld has been the primary lightning rod."
The Chicago Tribune notes that "Abizaid offered a more positive picture of Iraq than his assessment in August when he said the country could be sliding into civil war."
The New York Times says, "Skepticism among lawmakers from both parties was palpable, and the concerns of the lawmakers were reinforced by intelligence officials who testified later in the day and who painted a more pessimistic portrait of the violence in Iraq than General Abizaid did."
Per an aide, Sen. John Kerry (D) plans to speak on the Senate floor today regarding the "moment for change in Iraq," and will emphasize that "bipartisanship is actions taken not words spoken." Kerry "will emphasize that as Democrats in the majority the responsibility is even greater to force a change in course, hold the Administration accountable, and provide a clear alternative -- and will push the Administration to comply with the congressional resolution Kerry passed this summer which President Bush signed to hold a Dayton Accords-like summit to forge a political solution in Iraq."