A Teleconference With Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell On The President’s Iraq Speech

This morning at 10 AM, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell had a blogger teleconference. Here are my notes, not quotes from that meeting.

McConnell’s Opening Statement

My take on the President’s initiative: I support the decision. The goal is to win. That means having a stable government and an ally in the war on terror. We’re going to clear and hold, not clear and leave. No neighborhood will be exempt, including Sadr City. Iraq needs a secure capital city to have a chance.

What the Democrats really advocate is leaving. But, when we left Vietnam, they didn’t follow us here. The terrorists in Iraq will. If we leave Iraq with our tail between our legs and leave a mess there, it will follow us here. The Democrats want to leave and there’s only one way to do that: to cut off money for the troops.

The Q&A Session

Q: Are we going to take on Iran if they interfere?

A: The President has been intentionally vague on that and I think that’s the right approach.

Q: What does your caucus think about this?

A: The Democrats will need 60 votes to stop Bush and I am hopeful that we will have enough Republicans to stop the passage of any anti-war resolution. We also expect Lieberman to support us.

Q from me: If the Iraqis don’t get the job done in 2007, will we be able to hold out in 2008?

A: Not going to answer a hypothetical on something like that.

Q from me: Follow-Up. If the Iraqis do meet the goals, clearing and holding, Iraqis taking over the provinces by November, can we still muster GOP support to keep US troops there for logistics, air support, etc.?

A: I hesitate to answer a hypothetical, but I think we can stop the Democrats from cutting the money.

Q: What about the rules of engagement?

A: I can tell you that no neighborhood will be exempt, but don’t have a lot of detail to give you beyond that?

Q: How good is Bush’s relationship with Malikki?

A: We’re not happy with how it has gone and it’s time for him to produce.

Summary: Basically, McConnell sounds as if he expects to hear some grumbling from some GOP Senators and of course, lots of complaining from the Democrats, but that he thinks that they can’t muster the votes to cut off funds for the troops and that’s the key thing. If they don’t have the votes on that, then it’s all sound and fury signifying nothing. All in all, I think McConnell seems to be taking the right approach, hitting the right notes, and backing the President’s play on the war.

Update #1: If you’re looking for an indication that there is a new attitude in Iraq, this would seem to be a pretty clear signal:

US forces have stormed an Iranian consulate in the northern Iraqi town of Irbil and seized six members of the staff.

…Iranian media said the country’s embassy in Baghdad had sent a letter of protest about the raid to the Iraqi foreign ministry.

One Iranian news agency with a correspondent in Irbil says five US helicopters were used to land troops on the roof of the Iranian consulate.

It reports that a number of vehicles cordoned off the streets around the building, while US soldiers warned the occupants in three different languages that they should surrender or be killed.”

(Applause) It sounds like we’re done playing pattycake with the Iranians. It’s about time.

Update #2: Also see,

Powerline

Update #3: This is another headline that has been long overdue,

Al-Maliki gives Mahdi Army blunt choice: disarm or face American onslaught

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