The Times Hypes Lugar's Criticism of Surge on Front Page

"Mr. Lugar is known to his colleagues as anything but a bitter partisan, which made his remarks all the more stinging." But Lugar has criticized Bush's foreign policy in the past as well, and the Times' top reporter in Baghdad says it's too early to call the surge a failure just yet.

Moderate Republican Senator and foreign policy maven Richard Lugar of Indiana made news last night by coming out against the Iraq surge, and the Times put him on the front page Wednesday morning in a story by Jeff Zeleny, "G.O.P. Senator Splits With Bush Over Iraq Policy."

"Senator Richard G. Lugar of Indiana, the ranking Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee and a steadfast supporter of the president, has conspicuously broken ranks with him on the Iraq war, warning that the United States' standing in the world could be irreparably eroded if the White House does not change strategy soon.

"'In my judgment, the costs and risks of continuing down the current path outweigh the potential benefits that might be achieved,' Mr. Lugar said Monday during a 50-minute speech on the Senate floor, which was delivered after nearly everyone in the Capitol had retired for the evening. 'Persisting indefinitely with the surge strategy will delay policy adjustments that have a better chance of protecting our vital interests over the long term.'

"His remarks reverberated through Capitol Hill on Tuesday, picking up support from other Republican senators, even as the White House, which was not alerted about Mr. Lugar's speech in advance, tried to minimize their significance.

"At his daily televised briefing, Tony Snow, Mr. Bush's press secretary, dismissed the idea that the White House might worry that Mr. Lugar's statement would encourage fellow Republicans to join him in breaking with the president.

"For months, Mr. Lugar has kept his skepticism about the president's Iraq policy largely to himself, seldom offering anything beyond a hopeful wait-and-see statement. A soft-spoken cardinal of foreign policy, Mr. Lugar is known to his colleagues as anything but a bitter partisan, which made his remarks all the more stinging.

But despite the Times' hype, this isn't the first time Lugar has criticized Bush's handling of Iraq. Back on May 24, 2004, the Times featured him:

"Nonetheless, the even-keeled Mr. Lugar sent a warning to Mr. Bush on Saturday, when Mr. Lugar questioned the administration's war against terrorism in a commencement speech at Tufts University.

'"'Military action is necessary to defeat serious and immediate threats to our national security,' Mr. Lugar said. ' But the war on terrorism will not be won through attrition, particularly since military action will often breed more terrorists and more resentment of the United States.'

"In the interview, when asked if Mr. Bush was properly handling the troubles in Iraq, Mr. Lugar replied, 'I don't know.'"

The MRC's Tim Graham noted that New York Times reporter John Burns, Baghdad bureau chief, was asked about Lugar's assessment on National Public Radio's Dayto Day program yesterday afternoon. Burns replied: "As for Senator Lugar's assessment that they've overestimated what they can do, I think it's a little early to say that. In the last few days I've been at several places around <?XML:NAMESPACE PREFIX = ST1 />Baghdad where the offensives are underway. I've been out in Ramadi, where as you know, Anbar province has been the most remarkable reduction in violence. And there's no doubt that this surge is having an effect, that al-Qaida for the time being at least appears to be on the back foot. Can that be sustained? Probably too early to tell."