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Correction to This Article
A Jan. 28 article about Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.) and his opposition to President Bush's proposed troop increase in Iraq incorrectly described the makeup of a group of senators who challenged the president on judicial nominations. The group was made up of seven Democrats and seven Republicans.

Vietnam Shades Warner's Iraq Stand

A day before President Bush's State of the Union address, Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.) announces a resolution criticizing Bush's plan to increase troops in Iraq. Flanking him at Monday's news conference are Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.).
A day before President Bush's State of the Union address, Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.) announces a resolution criticizing Bush's plan to increase troops in Iraq. Flanking him at Monday's news conference are Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.). (By Win Mcnamee -- Getty Images)

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By Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 28, 2007

Virginia Sen. John W. Warner's words betray the guilt he still carries about the Vietnam War and help explain why this pillar of the Republican establishment is leading a bipartisan revolt against the war plans of a president in his own party.

"I regret that I was not more outspoken" during the Vietnam War, the former Navy secretary said in an interview in his Capitol Hill office. "The Army generals would come in, 'Just send in another five or ten thousand.' You know, month after month. Another ten or fifteen thousand. They thought they could win it. We kept surging in those years. It didn't work."

Is that a lesson for what's going on in Iraq?

"Well, you don't forget something like that," he answers. There is a long pause, he closes his eyes and his voice gets softer. "No. You don't forget those things."

More than 30 years after Vietnam, Warner is once again watching as generals propose additional troops. But this time, he's not staying silent. In a rebuke to President Bush, Warner is leading an effort to have the U.S. Senate declare a lack of confidence in the administration's plans to send 21,500 additional soldiers into the Iraqi war zone.

White House officials were taken aback by the move, which is striking because of Warner's stature, both in the Republican Party and as one of the country's most ardent supporters of the military. But Warner, who once was married to Elizabeth Taylor, has an almost mythic popularity, which has made it impossible for Bush allies to demonize him on the issue.

The Senate will vote on his resolution as early as this week, along with a competing one drafted by Sens. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) and Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.). There is little doubt that a majority of senators will vote their disapproval of Bush's latest plans for Iraq, further isolating the president from the people who once supported the war -- people such as Warner.

Throughout a career that might be winding down -- the 80-year-old senator won't say whether he will run for a sixth term next year -- Warner has been a Republican icon and a fierce defender of the military. He voted to go to war in 2003, and from his perch as chairman of the Armed Services Committee until this year, he was a frequent defender of the president.

But to GOP loyalists, Warner is also a more-than-occasional irritant who seems willing to buck the party line with little regard for the political consequences to his Republican colleagues.

In 1994, he campaigned against his party's nominee to become the junior senator from Virginia, Oliver North. That prompted a primary challenge when he sought reelection two years later. In 2004, he endorsed higher taxes in Virginia and later held hearings on the abuses in the Abu Ghraib prison. In 2005, he battled Bush over Supreme Court justices and the use of torture in U.S. terrorist prison camps.

Now he's at it again, delivering a new affront to Bush and offering nothing but a shrug when asked if he worries about that.

"I gotta tell you, I've gotten to that wonderful age in life -- I don't worry," he said. "If you do what in your heart you feel is right, go to sleep. Don't worry. I go to sleep and I don't worry."


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