National security adviser Stephen J. Hadley visited Capitol Hill just before Congress adjourned for the Fourth of July. Meetings with a half-dozen senior Republican senators were clearly intended to extinguish fires set by Sen. Richard Lugar's unexpected break from President Bush's Iraq policy. They failed.
Hadley called his expedition a "scouting trip," leading one senator to ask what he was seeking. It was not advice on how to escape from Iraq. Instead, Hadley appeared interested in how previous supporters of Bush's course had drifted away. In the process, though, he planted seeds of concern. Some senators were left with the impression that the White House still does not recognize the scope of the Iraq dilemma. Worse yet, they see the president running out the clock until April, when a depleted U.S. military can be blamed for the fiasco.
CQ offers a summary of the amendments likely to be considered by the Senate in the latest Iraq debate:
* The Webb amendment on home rest (covered here last week);
* A Clinton-Byrd amendment to repeal the Iraq AUMF effective October 11, and force Bush to redefine the mission;
* An amendment by Senator Warner -- perhaps a non-binding one to call for a new use-of-force resolution in September;
* A proposal by Carl Levin to begin drawing troops down in October, with a flexible goal for complete withdrawal in 180 days;
* The Reid-Feingold proposal to set a date-certain for withdrawal, probably March 31, 2008;
* A Salazar-Alexander amendment to make the ISG recommendations 'official policy,' and seat a March, 2008 'goal' for drawdown of troops.
With the clear understanding that the president will veto any measure that undermines the conduct of the war, this exercise again amounts to an effort to weaken the resolve of Senate Republicans.