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   McConnell's Challenge

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1/9/2007 1:00 am

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Commentary

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Entered 1/10/2007, Updated 1/10/2007

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Can new Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell save his party from civil war over Bush's Iraq and anti-terrorism policies? WEB-EXCLUSIVE COMMENTARY By Howard Fineman Newsweek Updated: 11:21 a.m. CT Jan 9, 2007 Jan. 9, 2007 - With Congress back in session, I stopped by the sumptuous new Capitol offices of Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Kentuckian who now has the job he yearned for—Republican Senate leader—but not under the circumstances he wanted—he leads the minority. One of McConnell’s first acts was to replace an oil painting of President Andrew Jackson (Sen. Bill Frist of Tennessee had put it there) with one of Sen. Henry Clay, Kentucky’s “Great Compromiser,” who dedicated his life, unsuccessfully in the end, to preventing the United States from being torn to pieces by the issue of slavery. McConnell is going to need Clay-like diplomatic qualities to keep the GOP together, but the result may still be the same: civil war. This time, the issue is Iraq and, more generally, the Bush Administration’s approach to the “war on terror.” As the president prepared to speak to the country on his latest plan for his unpopular and costly war, Republican members of Congress generally were looking for cover as fast as they could find it. That is especially true of the 18 Senate Republican incumbents (at last count) who are up for reelection next year. True, George W. Bush will not be on the ballot, but his war policy will.


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