The Loyal Republican | Johnny Isakson

(By Sarah L. Voisin -- The Washington Post)

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By Shailagh Murray and Jonathan Weisman
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, July 15, 2007

S en. Johnny Isakson's phones, unlike those of many of his colleagues, aren't jammed with antiwar calls, and he heard few complaints about Iraq from constituents over the July 4 recess. So far, no one's threatening to throw him out of office if he doesn't come out against the war.

Still, the Georgia Republican grew intrigued last week with an amendment to the defense authorization bill now pending on the Senate floor that would turn the 79 recommendations of the Iraq Study Group into law. The measure sets a March 31 goal for withdrawing most combat troops, and its main author is a Democrat, Ken Salazar of Colorado.

Despite the mixed conclusions of the Iraq progress report President Bush released Thursday, Isakson remains a stalwart supporter of the war. But as the Senate debated, he heard the opposition's calls for a new Iraq policy as "legitimate concerns."

"Obviously, doing the same thing over and over again reaches a point where it's not acceptable, if you're not getting results," Isakson said.

The Salazar proposal has not attracted the support of Senate Democratic leaders, who are demanding a firm troop withdrawal deadline. But it struck Isakson as a way to signal his concerns, without undue interference with the military. The amendment would not prevent the escalation plan from playing out over the next 60 days, culminating with a mid-September report from Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq.

"I'm not going to support a deadline to withdraw the troops. I'm not going to undermine the September 15th timetable for the Petraeus report. But I will evaluate everything else on its merits based on what's happening," Isakson said.

The Salazar proposal, which has attracted support from both parties, "doesn't set fixed deadlines for withdrawal, nor does it declare defeat, nor does it do anything like that," Isakson said. "But it does talk about repositioning. It does talk about conditions. It is legitimately a thoughtful way to go about it."

He hasn't committed to voting for it -- yet. "It's rightfully something that should be talked about," he said.


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