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Murtha Changes Political Landscape of Iraq Debate

DANIEL SCHORR:

President Bush returns from Asia to a landscape radically altered by the issue of an early withdrawal of American troops from Iraq.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

NPR senior news analyst Daniel Schorr.

SCHORR: The raucous debate in the House on Friday night precipitated by the troop-pullout proposal of the much-decorated Democratic Congressman John Murtha availed his opponents little. As Congress scattered for the Thanksgiving recess, the suddenly famous Murtha dominated the weekend television talk shows. By yesterday the Bush administration was looking for a cease-fire. The president was praising Murtha's valor and the careful and thoughtful way that he'd arrived at his proposal. Today Vice President Dick Cheney, in his speech, said that calling for an early withdrawal from Iraq was `a dangerous illusion,' but his rhetoric was relatively tempered.

Much can change in a year, but as of now it looks as though getting out of Iraq will dominate the next election. Mr. Bush has no personal stake in that election, but a lot of Republican legislators do, and among them there are signs of disaffection from the president. Senator John Warner, normally an administration stalwart, had a watered-down troop-pullout proposal that is giving the administration heartburn. It would require quarterly reports to Congress on progress in closing of the Iraq chapter of America's history. Warner has also joined Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham in what they call `a little triumvirate,' supporting a measure that would outlaw inhuman treatment of prisoners. Meanwhile, Congress' agenda is tied up in knots, including major bills, like extension of the Patriot Act and a bill calling for deep budget cuts.

Congress analyst Stuart Rothenberg says that Iraq is now `a cloud over everything. It's the 800-pound gorilla in the room,' a mixed metaphor, but you get the idea. This is Daniel Schorr. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Daniel Schorr
Daniel Schorr passed away on Friday, July 23, 2010. See an obituary, photo gallery and an archive of Schorr's commentaries for NPR.
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