Warner, Levin, Reed and Inhofe lead Iraq visits

Sens. John Warner (R-Va.), Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), and James Inhofe (R-Okla.) have visited Iraq more than any other senator, while at least 21 senators have not traveled to the Middle Eastern country since the war started, according to a survey of Senate offices conducted by The Hill.

[After deadline for the print edition, Inhofe's office clarified the senator has been to Iraq 6 times, contrary to the print edition. ]

As lawmakers become more vocal about the Bush administration's handling of Iraq, their hands-on experience in the country could add to, or detract from, their credibility on the matter.

James Thurber, professor of political science and director at the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies at American University, emphasized that "people who have not been there are open to criticism from others and from not supporting the president's plan. There's nothing like seeing it [Iraq] as opposed to reading about it in reports."

It is not surprising that Inhofe, Warner, Levin and Reed have gone to Iraq many times. Warner and Levin are the top two lawmakers on the Armed Services Committee, and Inhofe and Reed are also on the powerful panel.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee ranking member Joseph Biden (D-Del.) has gone to Iraq five times, while another member of the panel, Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), has been there on four occasions.

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), who suggested this week that Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean should visit Iraq, has been there once.

Among senators who have not been to Iraq are Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), Appropriations Committee ranking member Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) and Kent Conrad (D-N.D.).

Some offices did not return phone calls. The Hill reviewed media articles to ascertain whether those senators had gone to Iraq.

The survey shows that 46 Republican senators traveled to Iraq a total of 63 times since 2002 while 34 Democratic senators visited Iraq 45 times.

Some senators have fewer reasons to go to Iraq than others because many do not sit on committees with jurisdiction on issues affecting the country. But political analysts say it is risky to be vocal on Iraq without having been there.

After Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.) last week criticized the administration on Iraq during C-SPAN's "Washington Journal," he was asked whether he had traveled to the country. Hinchey, who served in the military, said he had not, adding, "I haven't been invited by any of my Republican colleagues" to visit Iraq.

According to Josh Holly, spokesman for the House Armed Services Committee, congressional delegations, or codels, are can be authorized by any committee.

If there is a codel to Iraq, a top committee member or a member of leadership leads the visit. When spaces are available and no more committee members wish to attend, members outside the panel can participate.

A lawmaker's credibility "marginally increases by being there and being briefed," said Steven Wayne, professor of government at Georgetown University. "And one can also get the added benefit by seeing troops from their state at bases, but I think it is more for show than for education. It's 'I care. Look, I went.'

"The bottom line is it is good politics to go there and look at the situation for yourself."

Mandy Kozar contributed to this article.


Who has gone, and how often

6 visits
James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.)
Carl Levin (D-Mich.)
Jack Reed (D-R.I.)
John W. Warner (R-Va.)

5 visits
Joseph R. Biden, Jr. (D-Del.)

4 visits
Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.)

3 visits
Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)
Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.)
Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)
Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.)

2 visits
Lincoln Chafee (R-R.I.)
Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.)
Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.)
Susan Collins (R-Maine)
John Cornyn  (R-Texas)
Jon Corzine  (D-N.J.)
Larry E. Craig (R-Idaho)
Mark Dayton (D-Minn.)
Jeff DeMint (R-S.C.)
Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.)
John Kerry (D-Mass.)
Ben Nelson (D-Neb.)
Pat Roberts (R-Kan.)
Ted Stevens (R-Alaska)

1 visit
Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii)
Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.)
Wayne Allard (R-Colo.)
George Allen (R-Va.)
Evan Bayh (D-Ind.)
Jeff Bingaman-(D-N.M.)
Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.)
Sam Brownback (R-Kan.)
Jim Bunning (R-Ky.)
Conrad Burns (R-Mont.)
Richard M. Burr (R-N.C.)
Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.)
Thomas R. Carper (D-Del.)
Norm Coleman (R-Minn.)
Mike DeWine (R-Ohio)
Michael B. Enzi (R-Wyo.)
Russ Feingold (D-Wis.)
Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.)
Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas)
Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.)
Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.)
Mary L. Landrieu (D-La.)
Richard Lugar (R-Ind.)
John McCain (R-Ariz.)
Patty Murray (D-Wash.)
Bill Nelson (D-Fla.)
John D. Rockefeller (D-W.Va.)
Ken Salazar (D-Colo.)
Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.)
John E. Sununu (R-N.H.)
Jim Talent (R-Mo.)
Craig Thomas (R-Wyo.)
John R. Thune (R-S.D.)
Harry Reid (D-Nev.)
Gordon H. Smith (R-Ore.)

Never visited
Christopher S. Bond (R-Mo.)
Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.)
Tom Coburn (R-Okla.)
Thad Cochran (R-Miss.)
Kent Conrad (D-N.D.)
Pete V. Domenici (R-N.M.)
Byron L. Dorgan(D-N.D.)
Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa)
Tom Harkin (D-Iowa)
Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah)
James M. Jeffords (I-Vt.)
Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.)
Herb Kohl (D-Wis.)
Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.)
Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.)
Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska)
Barack Obama (D-Ill.)
Mark Pryor (D-Ark.)
Rick Santorum (R-Pa.)
Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine)
Arlen Specter (R-Pa.)

Didn't return calls
Max Baucus (D-Mont.)
Bob Bennett (R-Utah)
Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.)
Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.)
John Ensign (R-Nev.)
Bill Frist (R-Tenn.)
Judd Gregg (R-N.H.)
Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii)
Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.)
Trent Lott (R-Miss.)
Mel Martinez (R-Fla.)
Paul S. Sarbanes (D-Md.)
Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.)
Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.)
David Vitter (R-La.)
George V. Voinovich (R-Ohio)
Ron Wyden (D-Ore.)