Republican Senator John Warner, fresh back from viewing the pentagon's dog-and-pony show in Iraq, is wandering ever further off the GOP's reservation - and blazing a trail for others to part with the White House line.
GOP Sen. John Warner, who wants U.S. troops to start coming home from Iraq by Christmas, said Sunday he may support Democratic legislation ordering withdrawals if President Bush refuses to set a return timetable soon.Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, a fellow member of Senate Armed Services Committee, has been detailed with damage control duties and has said Warner's words could contribute to the collapse of Maliki's government, which would "make us less safe here at home". In other words, the usual fearmongering reached for by the administration and its cheerleaders when they don't get things all their own way.
``I'm going to have to evaluate it,'' Warner said. ``I don't say that as a threat. I say that as an option we'll all have to consider.''
Warner, a former Navy Secretary and one-time chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is seen as someone who could influence the debate among senators who have grown increasingly uneasy about the unpopular war.
Warner's suggestion last week about bringing back some troops put him at odds with Bush, who has insisted that conditions on the ground should dictate any such decisions. Warner long has opposed legislation pushing for timetables.
The Virginia Republican said Sunday it would be best for the president, not Congress, to make a decision on withdrawals and that overriding a presidential veto would be difficult. But Warner made clear his view that people are losing patience with the administration's strategy in Iraq, a significant change is needed in September and troop withdrawals were the best way to accomplish that.
``That's precisely what I said to the president: 'You can initiate a first withdrawal. You pick the number. It will send a signal to the Iraqi government that matches your words,''' Warner said. ``His words being, 'We're not going to be there forever.'''
``The president has got to put teeth in the comments that we are not there forever,'' he added.