NBC's Ken Strickland says Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid gave the White House and their GOP allies fresh ammunition to criticize his position on the war when Reid said at a press conference Thursday "this war is lost and that the surge is not accomplishing anything, as indicated by the extreme violence in Iraq yesterday."
Senate Republican leaders pounced. "I can't begin to imagine how our troops in the field, who are risking their lives every day, are going to react ... and hear that [Reid] has declared the war is lost," said Republican Leader Mitch McConnell. Democrats "are no longer willing to stand behind them," added John Cornyn.
Reid's office says the leader does feels that the "war is lost" if the Administration continues its failed strategy. Jim Manley, Reid's spokesperson, acknowledged his boss could have been "more clearer" in his morning remarks and pointed to Reid's comments on the Senate floor later that further amplified his thinking. "As long as we follow the president's path in Iraq, the war is lost. But there's still a chance to change course, and we must change course."
Of course, the ghost of Vietnam reared its ugly head yesterday and partisans on both sides even started to slip into the predictable "who lost Vietnam" talking points. Said Bush: "I want to remind you that after Vietnam, after we left, millions of people lost their life," Bush said here when an audience member asked about comparisons between Vietnam and Iraq. "The Khmer Rouge, for example, in Cambodia. And my concern is there would be a parallel… The same thing would happen. There would be the slaughter of a lot of innocent life. The difference, of course, is that this time around, the enemy wouldn't just be content to stay in the Middle East; they'd follow us here."
Also drawing on history when speaking in Ohio yesterday, Bush "said he would not buckle to polls … and conveyed his belief that he would be vindicated by history. 'Let me put it to you this way,' Mr. Bush said. 'When it's all said and done, when Laura and I head back home — which at this moment will be Crawford, Tex. — I will get there and look in the mirror, and I will say, "I came with a set of principles and I didn't try to change my principles to make me popular."'"
The New York Times: "The confrontation between the Democratic majority and Republicans in Congress and in the administration unfolded as the House conducted another debate on Thursday evening on a timetable for withdrawing troops from Iraq. As House leaders appointed negotiators to work with the Senate to reconcile their two Iraq spending bills, Republicans demanded another vote on a simple question: Should major combat missions end by Sept. 1, 2008? The procedural motion passed largely along party lines on a vote of 215 to 199.The vote was intended to highlight fissures inside the Democratic caucus."
Meanwhile, it seems that a third GOP senator, Maine's Olympia Snowe, is open to supporting an Iraq withdrawal bill that has a set of benchmarks. She joins Chuck Hagel and Gordon Smith, who have sided with the Democrats on many of these Iraq bills. Said Senate Minority Whip Trent Lott of the defection: "It doesn't matter…. We've got plenty of votes," said Lott, whose 49-member caucus could sustain more than a dozen defections and still prevent Democrats from overriding a veto.