Sen. Brownback faults Bush, GOP for lack of political effort in Iraq

Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) said yesterday that the Bush administration and Republicans are not doing enough politically in Iraq and that he and fellow presidential candidate Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.) have been in talks about introducing a bill that would call for partitioning Iraq into three states.

Speaking to reporters at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor, Brownback also offered a couple nods to social conservatives, saying he would now vote against the Senate-passed immigration bill that he supported last year and that as president he would not impose his opposition to the death penalty.

Brownback said he met with Vice President Cheney and others last week to discuss his and Biden’s plan but that the administration is not devoting sufficient attention to a political solution to the problems in Iraq. Instead, he said, it is relying too heavily on force and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

“They have a strategy, and it’s dominated by military and Maliki,” he said.

Brownback and Biden’s idea would split Iraq into Kurdish, Sunni and Shiite states under a weak central government. Asked if the administration was interested in hearing about the idea, Brownback hesitated noticeably before remarking, “They’re interested in hearing some about it.

“I think the Republican Party, in this case, has pushed too much of just a military solution,” Brownback said. “I don’t think the Democrats are much interested in talking now that they see the political advantage of where they are. The solution involves both of these answers.”

The third-term Republican said he has been working with Biden, who originally championed the three-state idea, about putting together a resolution that would codify their proposal.

He said he hopes that they can introduce something before the pending troop-funding bill collides with a probable presidential veto, but noted Biden hasn’t committed to anything in their preliminary discussions.

Talking at length about immigration, Brownback said that now he would not vote for the immigration bill co-authored by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), despite voting for it last May. He said the dialogue that ensued after its passage raised red flags on issues like chain migration.

The bill sought to provide illegal immigrants in the United States with a pathway to citizenship. All senators running for president and almost all who were considering bids at that point voted for the bill.

“What we got through was what we could get through the Senate to move the process on forward,” Brownback said. “There were a number of things in it that I don’t think were good.”

On the death penalty, Brownback said he would not enforce his personal view and move to restrict its use if he becomes president. He calls himself “pro-life, whole-life,” and only believes in capital punishment in cases where society cannot be protected from the perpetrator — someone like Osama bin Laden, he said.

“I think it is tough for us, as a state, to teach a culture of life and still use this tool of death,” Brownback said. “That’s where I have difficulty with it, but I’m not going to be pushing it on an aggressive basis.”

Brownback has built his candidacy on social conservatism, suggesting the frontrunners for the Republican nomination do not appeal to the GOP base. The death penalty and his immigration vote are two things that could jeopardize his standing among the social conservatives who dominate that base.

Similar to Brownback’s death penalty nod, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who is leading in the national polls despite his socially liberal views, has pledged to appoint strict-constructionist judges.

Trailing badly in those polls and usually only garnering a couple percentage points, Brownback characterized himself as “the tortoise” in the race, and urged social conservatives not to write him off.

At the same breakfast two weeks ago, three prominent social conservatives — Gary Bauer of American Values, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council and Mark Earley of the Prison Fellowship — were dismissive of Brownback and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R), who are lagging far behind in the polls and fundraising.

 “I’d invite them to hold the fire,” Brownback said. “This is way early, and let’s see how some of this develops. … Gives us a chance to have a campaign.”