The Conservative Democrat | Dan Boren

By Shailagh Murray and Elizabeth Williamson
Sunday, July 22, 2007

Rep. Dan Boren stepped into the granite glare outside the Capitol and onto a blue bus with tinted windows bound for the Pentagon. Joining about 60 House colleagues and 20 senators from across the political spectrum, the Blue Dog Democrat from Oklahoma was headed to a classified briefing on the war's progress Thursday morning, an administration effort to keep war supporters such as him on board.

The group disembarked and was led through a labyrinth of hallways into an amphitheater-style meeting room. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates welcomed them, then turned to a large video screen for a satellite briefing from Iraq by Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. military commander there, and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker. The message, especially from Petraeus, was "we can't leave," Boren recalled.

Boren wasn't buying it. "I don't think they understand the frustration of the American people, the frustration of my constituents and the fact that we need to have a dramatic shift in course.

"It was just," he said with a sigh, "the overall deafness."

Among the four dozen Blue Dogs in the House, eight, including Boren, have continued to vote with Bush. But on the bus back to Capitol Hill, the conservative Democrats quickly started grumbling. "There were comments like, 'They don't seem to get it,' " Boren said.

For the first time, Boren found himself seriously pondering support for the withdrawal measure proposed by Senate moderates Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine). Congressional leaders "have been pushing for legislation to have either immediate withdrawal or withdrawal at a certain date," Boren said. "But as we move toward September, my advice to leadership would be to look at proposals like that."

He is becoming increasingly fed up with the Bush administration, despite his voting record of supporting the White House on the war. His advice to administration officials: "You'd better hurry. Because there are moderates and conservatives who are not going to stay with you forever."

When Boren left for Oklahoma on Thursday night, he carried a copy of the Nelson-Collins amendment to study.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company