NY Times ' Stolberg credited Warner -- not Democrats -- with "prodding" Senate to require Iraq progress reports

››› ››› JEREMY SCHULMAN

In a November 21 New York Times article, reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg credited Sen. John W. Warner (R-VA) with "prodding the Senate" to require quarterly Iraq war progress reports from the Bush administration and "spawning a raucous House debate over whether U.S. troops should withdraw" from Iraq. In fact, Warner's plan, which he sponsored with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN), was based on legislation the Democrats had previously circulated -- a fact reported at the time by multiple news outlets, including the Times.

From Stolberg's November 21 New York Times article, which examined three Republican senators -- Warner, John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) -- who have challenged the Bush administration on military issues:

On that score, the three are not in lockstep. Last week, Mr. Warner prodded the Senate to require the Bush administration to provide Congress with quarterly progress reports on the war, spawning a raucous House debate over whether troops should withdraw and setting the stage for Iraq to dominate the 2006 midterm elections. But Senators McCain and Graham, who have steadfastly called for more troops, not fewer, voted against Mr. Warner's plan, saying it smacked of a timetable for withdrawal.

On November 14, the Democrats publicly announced plans to introduce an amendment requiring progress reports from the administration. The same day, Warner and Frist introduced a similar version of the amendment that contained exactly four changes:

  • The Democratic version said American troops "should not stay in Iraq indefinitely"; the Republican version changed "indefinitely" to "any longer than required."
  • The Democratic version scheduled the first progress report for "not later than 30 days after" the legislation's passage; the Republican version read "90 days."
  • Introducing the list of reporting requirements, the Democratic version read, "Each report shall include the following"; the Republican version read, "Each report shall include, to the extent practicable, the following unclassified information."
  • The final reporting requirement in the Democratic amendment -- a requirement that the Bush administration provide "estimated dates for the phased redeployment from Iraq" -- did not appear in the Republican version.

Aside from the sponsors' names, the Republicans made no other changes. Both parties' plans bore the title "United States Policy on Iraq Act" and were offered as amendments to the defense authorization bill. After the Democrats' plan was defeated 58-40 in the Senate on November 15, Warner and Frist's version passed 79-19.

Stolberg's article -- headlined "In the Senate, a Chorus of Three Defies the Line" -- described the emerging "triumvirate" of Warner, McCain, and Graham as "a powerful political force" and suggested that each of the three senators "has a strong maverick streak." Stolberg completely omitted the Democrats' leading role in creating the quarterly progress reports requirement.

In contrast to Stolberg's article, a November 15 New York Times article by Carl Hulse noted that "Mr. Warner said he decided to take the Democratic proposal and edit it to his satisfaction in an effort to find common ground between the parties on the issue." Hulse also noted in a November 16 New York Times report that Warner and Frist's amendment was "based on a Democratic plan."

In addition, a November 16 Washington Post article noted that in writing the Republicans' amendment, Warner had "embraced the bulk of the Democratic amendment but removed what the White House and some Republicans saw as the most odious language, the requirement for the administration to establish an estimated timetable for withdrawal."

The Hill newspaper reported on November 15 that "Democrats circulated a copy of their amendment [at a November 14 press conference] with Democratic co-sponsors crossed out, Warner and Frist's names inserted, and the key changes made in pen." The Hill further reported that in an email, Jim Manley, spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), wrote, "That is their handwritten changes to our amendment.... We drafted, provided them our text, and then they made changes to our amendment and filed it as theirs."

During the televised November 14 press conference referenced by The Hill, Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) told reporters, "What the Republicans have done is crossed off the names of all the Democrats on it; just inserted Senators Warner and Frist, and made a few changes in the amendment."

The hand-edited amendment is available here.

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy, War in Iraq
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.