Monday, May 14, 2007


A Defiant Bush Continues to Ignore Public Opinion By Adamantly Opposing a Timetable for U.S. Troop Withdrawal in the Iraq War. But Eight Years Ago, He Demanded That Clinton Adopt a Timetable for a Withdrawal From Kosovo in the Balkans War


President Bush waves to reporters Friday as he boards the Marine One presidential helicopter on the south lawn of the White House, en route to Jamestown, Virginia, where he participated in celebrations marking the 400th anniversary of America's first permanent English colony. (Photo: Yuri Gripas/Reuters)

By Skeeter Sanders

A defiant President Bush vowed last week to once again disregard public opinion and further prolong the deeply unpopular war in Iraq by using his veto pen against a second Iraq war-funding bill passed with strings attached by the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives.

The measure, which passed the House by an almost totally party-line vote of 221 to 208, furnishes $43 billion for the war effort only through July and forces Bush to report to Congress on the Iraqi government meeting certain, as-yet-undefined "benchmarks" for progress.

"I'll veto this bill if it's this haphazard, piecemeal funding," Bush told reporters at a White House press briefing. "I made it clear that we reject that idea. It won't work."

Bush vowed to veto this second bill despite a new round of opinion polls showing that his job-approval rating plunged to 28 percent, the lowest of his presidency and worse than his father's 31 percent job-approval rating in 1992 before the elder Bush lost the White House to Bill Clinton.

The polls also show between 57 and 60 percent of Americans supporting a U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq.

The president's record-low poll ratings followed his earlier veto of a $124 billion war funding bill that included a timeline for withdrawal of U.S. troops from sectarian-civil-war-torn Iraq, objecting vehemently to the troop-withdrawal requirement.

"I believe artificial timetables of withdrawal would be a mistake, and I will strongly reject an artificial timetable for withdrawal and/or Washington politicians trying to tell those who wear the uniform [of the U.S. military] how to do their job," he said.

Yet in an incredible example of hypocrisy, Bush himself demanded eight years ago that a timetable be established for withdrawal of U.S. troops from another faraway war.

1999: Bush Demands Timetable for Troop Withdrawal From Kosovo

When Bush was governor of Texas -- and a declared candidate for the 2000 GOP presidential nomination -- he sharply criticized President Clinton for not setting up a timetable for U.S. troop withdrawal from the Serbian province of Kosovo during the Balkans war that saw the violent breakup of Yugoslavia.

In an April 1999 interview with the Houston Chronicle, then-candidate Bush criticized the Clinton administration for not doing enough to enunciate a goal for the U.S.-led NATO military action in Kosovo and indicated NATO's bombing campaign against the Serbian-dominated Yugoslav military might not be a tough enough response.

“Victory means exit strategy, and it’s important for the president to explain to us what the exit strategy is,” Bush told the Chronicle.

Bush -- who had been under sharp criticism himself by his GOP rivals for what they said was his vagueness on how he would handle the Balkans war if he were in the White House at the time -- said NATO’s use of military force should restore Kosovo to its native ethnic Albanian population.

Employing one of his now-legendary malapropisms in referring to the Kosovars, the then-Texas governor told the Chronicle,“I would define the mission as to restoring Kosovo so the Kosovoians can move back in and at the same time teach [the late Yugoslav dictator Slobodan] Milosevic that NATO and its allies and the United States will not tolerate genocide.”

The United States and NATO at that time were trying to halt the campaign of “ethnic cleansing” of Kosovars by Milosevic's Serb-dominated army with air strikes against Yugoslav forces.

GOP Ripped Clinton's War Policies in the Balkans

By the following June, most of the Republican presidential contenders, including Bush, were relentless in their criticisms against Clinton’s policies in Kosovo, calling the Clinton strategy an “insane war” and the “result of a series of blunders.”

The criticisms continued even after the NATO air war produced an apparent peace deal with Belgrade.

For his part, Bush kept up his demand for Clinton to set a timetable for a U.S. withdrawal. “I think it’s important for the president to lay out a timetable as to how long they will be involved and when they will be withdrawn," he told the Scripps-Howard News Service.

"If there needs to be a residual force, it is important that over time, U.S. troops are withdrawn and our European allies carry the majority of the load,” then-candidate Bush continued.

McCain Proves to Be Consistent -- Even Though He's Losing Support Over Iraq

If Bush was so adamant in calling for a timetable for U.S. troop withdrawal from Kosovo, why, then, is he being so stubborn in his insistence that U.S. troops stay in Iraq?

Interestingly, Senator John McCain has proven himself to be quite consistent on the use of U.S. military force, even though he's rapidly lost the support of independent voters over Iraq.

Just as he has staunchly defended Bush's highly controversial troop buildup in Iraq, McCain was the lone GOP presidential contender in the 2000 race to support Clinton's policies in Kosovo -- even criticizing his fellow Republicans for using the Balkans war for partisan political gain.

We shouldn’t be in any hurry to end the air campaign,” McCain said at the time. “Milosevic might appear to comply with the [1999] agreement only up to the point that NATO ceases bombing, and then invent some pretext to demand changes in the agreement, judging that NATO would lack the political will to resume bombing.”

Sounds hauntingly familiar, doesn't it?

Iraq Not the Only Foreign Policy Issue In Which Bush Is Hypocritical

It's not the first time that Bush has been found to be a hypocrite on a major foreign-policy issue. Six weeks ago, the president harshly criticized House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) for her trip to Syria and her meeting with its president, Bashar al-Assad.

Yet Bush didn't utter a peep about a meeting with Assad three days before Pelosi's visit by three Republican congressmen -- Frank Wolf of Virginia, Joe Pitts of Pennsylvania and Robert Aderholt of Alabama.

Nor did the president say anything about the GOP congressman who accompanied Pelosi on her trip to Damascus -- David Hobson of Ohio.

And Bush isn't about to criticize his own secretary of state, Condoleeza Rice, for her own meeting on May 3 with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt,on the sidelines of a two-day conference in Egypt about Iraq's future.

White House press secretary Tony Snow said the White House saw a difference between diplomacy by Rice and Pelosi. And House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said the Pelosi delegation's visit to Syria differed from that of the House Republicans in its intent.

Rubbish, say Democrats, who accused the administration of partisan hypocrisy.

Even the Republican Hobson rejected the administration's criticism. "I didn't sense we went there to embarrass the president. If I felt that way, I would not have gone,'' Hobson said.

He also praised Rice's meeting with Moallem: "If you don't talk to them [the Syrians], you can't get movement,'' Hobson told the San Francisco Chronicle.

Rice's meeting with Moallem "is a marked improvement in the administration's ostrich policy approach, and a tacit admission of how wrong it was last month in criticizing the speaker of the House and congressional colleagues, including myself, for going to Damascus,'' said Rep. Tom Lantos (D-California).

A tacit admission, indeed.

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Volume II, Number 24
Copyright 2007, Skeeter Sanders. All rights reserved.


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