Dodd, Lott Discuss The War

Chris Dodd, Tent Lott, Face The Nation
Chris Dodd, Trent Lott split

Democrat Chris Dodd and Republican Trent Lott, appearing on Face the Nation, continued the partisan fighting over Congress' role in managing the Iraq war that has stalled several resolutions in the Senate.

As the fighting continues in Iraq and the Bush administration ratchets up the blame on Iran for fueling some of the violence, Republicans stymied the Senate's debate of the Iraq resolutions with a procedural move.

"None of these resolutions could garner barely 50 votes, and so we ended up sort of competing about debating over debating," Dodd, D-Conn., said.

But Lott, appearing separately on Face the Nation told Bob Schieffer, "We didn't block debate – actually, the vote was to continue debate." Lott said that Republicans are insisting on a "debate, not a mandate."

"All we were asking was that we have an opportunity to have an open debate, offer more than one resolution, but at least have a vote on whether or not we support funds for the troops that are in Iraq," he said. "Isn't that an important part of the debate? That's all it was really about. And we were told 'no, no, no,' we don't want you to have a vote on we support funds for the troops in the field, because that would have been the top voting issue, and the Democrats did not want that."

But Dodd, a contender for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, said debating the war's funding was a separate issue.

"The next issue will come along on funding, and I believe Congress has got to step up to the plate here," Dodd said. "We've got to answer the question about whether or not you're going to continue a policy that, I think, is causing us great harm both at home and abroad all over the region, all over the world."

Lott said that those who oppose the president's plan have simply not offered a good alternative. The president, he said, at least has proposed a course of action and the Congress should not undermine it.

But even in Lott's own state, Mississippi — perhaps the most conservative in the nation – patience with the war is wearing thin and people are growing wearing of their National Guard troops being sent back to fight again and again.

"They want a different situation, but they want a reasonable result," he said. "That's the difference. They're not willing just to say, 'OK, cap the troops, pull the troops out, retreat back to the borders.' My question is, if you go to the borders, which way do you shoot?"

Dodd favors withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq because he thinks that the security situation cannot get any worse without them there. The White House, and some Republicans in Congress, has said that Iraq will become a haven for terrorists if American forces pull out now.

"Sixty percent believe it's appropriate to shoot and kill Americans who are there," he said. "How do you sustain a policy when the very people we're trying to help are opposed to our being there?"

Changes, Dodd said, are only going to come if the president changes his mind on his own or if Congress forces him to change it. "We could veto the legislation," Dodd said, "but I think we've got to stand up and offer real legislation with real teeth and real accountability, or the American public are going to be very, very disappointed to put it mildly."

Dodd also attacked the president for posturing to go to war with Iran rather than listening to the Baker-Hamilton report which recommended engaging in talks with Iran and Syria.

"Clearly, Iran is a problem, there's no question about it," Dodd said. "But they were going to be a problem under the present policy anyway, and it seems to me, until we engage them some way on a multiple of issues, including this one, it's only going to get worse."

Lott said there is no reason to assume that the White House is laying the groundwork for an attack on Iran.

"I mean, if they were trying to make a case, I'm sure they'd be talking about it a lot more aggressively," he said. "As a matter of fact, this report that indicated that these devices perhaps were coming from Iran actually got out before the briefings were given even to members of Congress."