“A ping-pong game with American lives”

The RNC can smear Jim Webb, but a lot of Republicans agree with him.

Topics: Iraq war, War Room, Jim Webb,

Even before Jim Webb delivered his response to George W. Bush’s State of the Union address last night, the Republican National Committee was looking to take him down. “Sen. Webb: Just Another Dem ‘Hothead,’” the RNC said in a post that went up on its Web site yesterday afternoon. Under a picture of Webb with his arm around John Kerry, the RNC declared that Virginia’s new senator is “in lockstep with the Defeatocrats on Iraq.”

We’re not sure how the RNC’s tone comports with the president’s claim last night that he respects those who differ with him about the way forward in Iraq. But the RNC has a bigger problem than that: It’s not so much that Webb agrees with other Democrats about Iraq; it’s that more and more Republicans do, too.

At a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing this morning, Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel continued his offensive on Bush’s Iraq plan. “There is no strategy,” Hagel said. “This is a ping-pong game with American lives. These young men and women that we put in Anbar province, in Iraq, in Baghdad are not beans; they’re real lives. And we better be damn sure we know what we’re doing, all of us, before we put 22,000 more Americans into that grinder.”

Hagel is co-sponsoring a bipartisan resolution opposing Bush’s plan to send more troops to Iraq. Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe has signed on, too. At least four more Republican senators — John Warner, Susan Collins, Norm Coleman and Gordon Smith — are backing a slightly milder anti-”augmentation” resolution.

Republican Sen. George Voinovich says he’ll probably end up supporting one of the resolutions. Still other Republicans are in the raising-questions stage. Sen. Arlen Specter said today that he can’t support putting “more American personnel in harm’s way without a realistic chance for success.” “And,” he added, “a realistic chance for success depends upon having the Iraqis with the will and the ability to fulfill their share of the bargain, and so far they have not.”

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And even some of the Republicans who will vote against the resolutions are voicing their displeasure with the president’s plan. Sen.Sam Brownback says Iraq needs a “political rather than a military solution.” Dick Lugar says that he’s not “confident” that Bush’s plan will work. However, he said this morning, “It is unclear to me how passing a nonbinding resolution that the president has already said he will ignore will contribute to any improvement or modification of our Iraq policy.” Lugar said that the Senate doesn’t need a resolution “to confirm that there is broad discomfort” with the president’s plan for the war. Instead, he said, Congress needs to “get involved in the weeds.”

Hagel probably doesn’t disagree with that, but he clearly believes that his colleagues also have the moral responsibility to do what Webb did last night. “I want 100 senators to look in that camera and tell your people back home what you think,” he said this morning. “If you wanted a safe job, go sell shoes.”

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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