Tonight in his prime time address, President Bush will announce that a “total of 5,700 of the 21,500 combat troops added this year will return by Christmas.”
This plan mirrors an August proposal put forth by Sen. John Warner (R-VA), who called on Bush to announce on Sept. 15 the that he will “initiate the first step in a withdrawal“:
I say to the President, respectfully, pick whatever number you wish. You do not want to lose the momentum. But certainly, in the 160,000 plus — say 5,000 — could begin to redeploy and be home to their families and loved ones no later than Christmas of this year.
Yet on Aug. 23, the White House shot down the prospects of such a drawdown. Asked to respond to Warner, White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said, “I think it’s inappropriate for me to say from here right now what the president will or will not consider.” A reporter followed up:
QUESTION: The president has frequently said a timetable would be a disastrous course of action.
JOHNDROE: Yes, and I don’t think that the president feels any differently about setting a specific timetable for withdrawl.
The White House, concerned that the media was reporting that Warner had broken with Bush, “reached out to Warner’s staff and asked him” to back away from his position. But Warner refused to do so, stating he stood by his remarks would not “issue any clarification.”
The right wing also swiftly attacked Warner. Freedom’s Watch spokesman Brad Blakeman claimed Warner’s drawdown “hurts the cause of freedom.” Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol said of Warner’s call: “I don’t think that’s based on serious military analysis.”
Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) said efforts to pre-empt the September White House report were “premature and irresponsible.” Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) said, “It’s a little curious to me that people are proposing a change in strategy when in fact the current strategy appears now to be working.”