We’ve heard a lot about how Republicans are/were uneasy about the political and policy prospects of George W. Bush’s war in Iraq. But when it came time to vote on whether to set a timeline to begin to bring that war to a close, only two Republicans said no to the President.
They are Representatives Walter Jones of North Carolina and Wayne Gilchrest of Maryland, and they can best be described as the lonely leaders of the GOP’s dormant antiwar wing. The situation is the same in the Senate. After Bush announced his escalation plan, Republican after Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee raised a stink. Yet on the recent Senate vote to redeploy troops by March 31, 2008, Senator Gordon Smith was the only Republican to vote with the Democratic majority.
Even Senator Chuck Hagel, one of the most vociferous critics of the war, refused to be associated with the antiwar camp. “I am not an antiwar candidate,” Hagel said. “I have never been antiwar.” Strange words from a man who described the troop increase as an “Alice in Wonderland” strategy that was “folly.”
What gives? Currently Republicans are trying to have it both ways–criticizing the war while sticking with the Bush Administration on actual pieces of legislation, albeit sometimes reluctantly. Because the next election is still 20 months away (even though it doesn’t seem like it), they haven’t had to choose between the President and the war. But eventually, if Iraq stays violent and Bush unpopular, they will. Only then will the war begin to come to a close.