Republicans Norm Coleman of Minnesota and Charles Grassley of Iowa—were the first to comment on President George W. Bush’s nationally televised address on Iraq. Many pundits had speculated that one of the key audiences for Bush’s speech were Republican lawmakers, especially those (like Coleman), who have been critical of the president and are up for re-election in 2008. Support for the President’s Iraq policy has eroded among his party at the margins in the Senate during the past year, beginning with Nebraska’s Chuck Hagel and Oregon’s Gordon Smith.
“I’m encouraged by the progress our military is making under the leadership of General Petraeus. The confirmation this evening that we will see an initial troop reduction of 5,700 troops by year’s end and significant troop withdrawals numbering up to 30,000 or more by next summer is the right decision.”
However, Coleman went on to implicitly suggest how he is not in lock-step with the President to rubber-stamp his Iraq policy:
“Americans need to know there is light at the end of the tunnel well beyond that time frame. That is why I pressed General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker during their Senate testimony this week for a long-term plan that reflects the objectives of our shift in mission and assigns a military timeline for substantial troop reductions from a position of strength and success.”
Coleman concluded by looking to the future that “America’s role in Iraq is not unending, nor do they have a blank check.”
Grassley, who has been one of the President’s most reliable allies in the Senate, offered less qualified support:
“Tonight, the Commander-in-Chief is choosing to adopt the General’s recommendations on troop reductions and the next phase of involvement. At this point, the approach fulfills what I’m looking for, which is a strategy that works to drawing down the U.S. commitment as quickly as possible while also looking out for U.S. interests and security in the long term. Americans are safer with an Iraq that is stable and not a haven for terrorists.”
Midwestern Democratic Senators have not yet issued press releases commenting on the President’s speech.