If media coverage on Iraq over the last few days suggested a possible momentum shift toward President Bush's position, that shift came to a grinding halt yesterday. As the Financial Times reports, GOP Sen. John Warner, "the most influential Republican senator on military affairs, on Thursday called on...Bush to bring some troops home from Iraq by Christmas to send a 'sharp and clear message' to the Iraqi government." The Washington Post notes "Democratic and Republican leadership aides said...that Warner's new stance," coupled with a new intelligence assessment on Iraq out yesterday, "may have stalled any political momentum Bush seemed to have been building in recent days." And the AP, in a widely distributed story, calls "Warner's new position" a "sharp challenge to a wartime president that will undoubtedly color the upcoming Iraq debate on Capitol Hill."
As part of their stories, a few media reports mention that Warner's opposition to Bush's Iraq policies is nothing new. The Los Angeles Times notes Warner "has been critical of the troop buildup ordered by Bush in January," and that yesterday he said "he was not ready to back a Democratic-led effort in Congress to order withdrawals." Likewise, the Washington Post reports "Warner had already broken with Bush's strategy" on the run-up to the "surge." In fact, later in the day yesterday, Warner later seemed to play down the significance of his comments during an interview on PBS's NewsHour, where he said, "This is a suggestion that I've had on my mind for some several months. ... I wasn't trying to surprise anybody." He noted the move would "probably not make any difference whatsoever" from a military perspective, "but it would be a signal."