Republican Senator Gordon Smith rose in the Senate, Friday, and emotionally announced the following: "I, for one, am at the end of my rope when it comes to supporting a policy that has our soldiers patrolling the same streets in the same way, being blown up by the same bombs day after day. That is absurd. It may even be criminal. I cannot support that any more."
News services reported that a number of Senators came up to Smith after his speech to say that they agreed with him.
Smith voted in favor of the war and has supported it ever since. However, he now says he never would have voted for it if he'd known that the intelligence information that Bush gave the public was inaccurate.
This is yet another indication of the sharp divisions that have developed between those who support the war, and those who support a negotiated end to the bloodshed.
On the one side there is George W. Bush, who continues to say that we will stand firm until his objective is accomplished. That objective, he says, is an Iraqi government which can sustain, govern and defend itself.
On the other side there are the members of the Baker-Hamilton bipartisan group, the majority of the American public, and just about everyone else in the world except Israel and Tony Blair.
Dissatisfaction with President Bush's handling of Iraq among the American public has climbed to an all time high of 71%, according to the latest AP-Ipson Poll released Friday. At the same time, only 27% of the respondents approved of the president's handling of the war, a new low.
Furthermore, only 9% expect the war to end in clear cut victory, compared with 87% who expect some sort of compromise settlement. Associated Press writer Nancy Benac pointed out that this parallels the public opinion about the Vietnam War in December, 1965, when a Gallup survey found that just 7% believed it would end in victory.
The latest AP-Ipson Poll was conducted as the Baker-Hamilton Report was being released on Wednesday.
The assessment offered by the Iraq report, begins with the statement that the situation is "grave and deteriorating." It goes on to make a number of recommendations, the key one being the need to begin negotiations.
President Bush was quick to reject this approach and insist that his objective is still to achieve a military victory. During his press conference, a British journalist asked the president if he really knew how bad it was over there. The president replied "It's bad."
But, if he is relying on the military to keep him up to date, does the president really know? The Baker-Hamilton Report presents the possibility that the military is distorting the facts. For example, on a day that the military said there were 60 incidents, the committee's investigation showed that there were actually 1,100.
Meanwhile, the relatively small percentage of the nation that is supporting Bush is making a big noise. In the process, the word "victory" is rapidly joining "patriotism" as what may now be the two most dangerous words in the American language. To be against continuing the battle for "victory" is to be a coward, according to the war hawks, and an unpatriotic one at that.
Since Wednesday, many howls of protest have echoed across the right wing of the political spectrum. The New York Post tabloid reacted to the Baker-Hamilton Report by referring to the esteemed committee members as "Surrender Monkeys." The Post is owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation which also owns the Fox News Channel.
On the other side of the aisle, so to speak, former Vice President Al Gore told Matt Lauer on the Today Show on Thursday that the war in Iraq is "the worst strategic mistake in the entire history of the United States." He went on to say that it is worse than a civil war over there.
In the midst of the chaos that has consumed Iraq and that now seems to be developing in the United States, one can't help but wonder about the impact on the Bush family, and particularly on the relationship between Bush 41 and Bush 43.
There is no hard information that would shed a light on this matter, but there are a couple of situations to consider.
First, there is that emotional breakdown that Bush the senior experienced the other evening while giving a speech in Florida. It was reported that the source of his distress was not Jeb, who rose to comfort him, but George W.
Second, why is it that all of a sudden Bush 41's team, in the form of Gates and Baker, is riding into Washington on an apparent mission to save the day for Bush 43, in much the same way that Baker rode into Florida in 2000 to secure the election for him?
Only, in this instance, Bush is stubbornly resisting Baker's advice. So, what's up with that?
To me, it spells t-r-o-u-b-l-e at the ranch. In addition to losing the support of a large majority of the American people, Bush 43 may also be in the process of losing some support back home. If so, perhaps it will cause him to adopt a more realistic approach.
Meanwhile, the next chapter in this high level drama may well shift to the Pentagon.
Let there be no doubt that the new Secretary of Defense, Robert Michael Gates, is a product of the Bush 41 team. He was President George H. W. Bush's Director of Central Intelligence, and before becoming president of Texas A&M University, he was the interim dean of the George Bush (that's #41) School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M.
Not surprisingly, it has also been reported that he shares the same views, generally, as James Baker. In fact, he was a member of Baker's Iraq Study Group at the time of his appointment as Secretary of Defense.
Gates testified before Congress that he did not give up the best job he's ever had, just to come to Washington to essentially be a puppet.
Considering these details, it sounds as though Bush and Gates might be on a collision course.