Frank Rich: Only Republicans, Not Democrats, Can Stop Bush — But Who Will Play Goldwater?

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By: E&P Staff

Frank Rich, The New York Times columnist, is old enough to remember the earthquake set off in 1974 when conservative icon Sen. Barry Goldwater accomplished what Woodward, Bernstein, Sam Ervin, even Judge John Sirica, could not — he convinced President Nixon to start on the path to resigning his office.

President Bush is nowhere close to that, but Rich, in his Sunday column, suggests that a respected and powerful Republican must step forward in the same manner to get Bush to at least quit — his latest Iraq folly.

Sen. McCain, he notes, is highly unlikely to do it, since he is in favor of a greater escalation. So Rich puts forward Sen. John Warner as a possible hero, but would clearly accept someone else.

Here is the close of the column, available in full behind the Times’ pay wall at www.nytimes.com.

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The question now is how to minimize the damage before countless more Americans and Iraqis are slaughtered to serve the president?s endgame of passing his defeat on to the next president. The Democrats can have all the hearings they want, but they are unlikely to take draconian action (cutting off funding) that would make them, rather than Mr. Bush, politically vulnerable to blame for losing Iraq.

I have long felt that it will be up to Mr. Bush?s own party to ring down the curtain on his failed policy, and after the 2006 midterms, that is more true than ever. The lame-duck president, having lost both houses of Congress and at least one war (Afghanistan awaits), has nothing left to lose. That is far from true of his party.

Even conservatives like Sam Brownback of Kansas and Norm Coleman of Minnesota started backing away from Iraq last week. Mr. Brownback is running for president in 2008, and Mr. Coleman faces a tough re-election fight. But Republicans not in direct electoral jeopardy (George Voinovich of Ohio, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska) are also starting to waver. It?s another Vietnam-Watergate era flashback. It wasn?t Democrats or the press that forced Richard Nixon?s abdication in 1974; it was dwindling Republican support. Though he had vowed to fight his way through a Senate trial, Nixon folded once he lost the patriarchal leader of his party?s right wing.

That leader was Barry Goldwater , who had been one of Nixon?s most loyal and aggressive defenders until he finally realized he?d been lied to once too often. If John McCain won?t play the role his Arizona predecessor once did, we must hope that John Warner or some patriot like him will, for the good of the country, answer the call of conscience. A dangerous president must be saved from himself, so that the American kids he?s about to hurl into the hell of Baghdad can be saved along with him.

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