Rep. Jo Ann Emerson was among a group of 11 "moderate" Republican House members who met with President Bush last week to urge a revision in our policy toward the war in Iraq. According to news reports, the 11 House members warned the President that the current strategy will lead to defections among the GOP ranks and will hurt the election prospects for Republicans in 2008.
No sooner had the group left the White House then conservatives began to brand the group as traitors to the party and worse. One leading conservative talk show host called on Republicans to find candidates to oppose these "moderates" in next year's primary elections.
I take a completely different view on the meeting with Bush.
For starters, I don't view Jo Ann Emerson as a moderate. She is a conservative who - like many others - is fed-up with the current lack of progress in Iraq. That doesn't mean we should pull our troops out or remove our support. It means we should demand the government of Iraq take a greater role in the safety of their country, among other things.
But lost in this story, I believe, is another important aspect of the meeting. It's a partisan position and it's just common sense. I believe the "moderates" were warning Bush that the current course in Iraq could well lead to a strong showing for the Democrats in the 2008 elections and that means judicial appointments, welfare programs and immigration reform will be in the hands of the liberal party. That does not bode well for conservatives nor the country. That is the message delivered to the President.
The 11 House members pledged their continued support against forcing a premature withdrawal of troops. And they pledged to fight for adequate funding for our troops. But they simply delivered a strong message that it is time for change in our strategy toward Iraq. We hope the White House was listening.
I consider myself a conservative but I certainly would have attended the meeting with President Bush. And I would have been among those voices issuing the warnings. Of course, as a conservative, I would have urged Bush to begin bombing all suspected terrorist hideouts with the sophisticated weaponry in our arsenal. I doubt that message was delivered however.
Too many conservatives believe you are either for us or against us. That's wrong. You can take a position of disagreement on specific areas and still support the American position. I believe Rep. Emerson falls into that category.