Senator Chuck Hagel has fired a warning shot across the White House's bow.
On George Stephanopoulos' This Week, Senator Hagel expressed frustration that Bush was ignoring Congress's steps to drive a new direction in America's Iraq engagement.
From a Reuters report:
"I think Congress is going to play a role now like we've not played before," said Sen. Chuck Hagel, a critic of Bush's Iraq policy from his own Republican Party.
Bush's weekend radio address in which he threatened to veto emergency spending legislation for the Iraq war if it included a timetable for withdrawing troops was "astounding to me -- saying to the Congress, in effect, you don't belong in this, I'm in charge of Iraq," Hagel of Nebraska said.
Hagel went on to say:
"I am opposed to the president's further escalation of American military involvement. We are undermining our interests in the Middle East, we are undermining our military, we're undermining the confidence of people around the world in what we're doing," Hagel said on ABC's "This Week" program.
"We have clearly a situation where the president has lost the confidence of the American people in his war effort," he said. "It is now time, going into the fifth year of that effort, for the Congress to step forward and be part of setting some boundaries and some conditions as to our involvement."
Senator Hagel is taking a dangerous step in challenging the White House in this way -- and is probably calculating that his presidential opportunity will rise or fall on Iraq and America's mismanaged engagement in the Middle East.
It's a bold gamble, and Dems and moderate Republicans need to take note of the political space Hagel is creating.
-- Steve Clemons is Senior Fellow and Director of the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation and publishes the popular political blog, The Washington Note
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