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Lieberman Calls For Formation Of 'War Cabinet'
WASHINGTON -- Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, increasingly isolated in his own Democratic party because of his strong support for the Iraq war, today called on the White House and congressional leaders to form a special "war cabinet" to provide advice and direction for the war effort.
The Connecticut Democrat's "Bipartisan Victory in Iraq Administrative Group," designed to take some of the political edge off the war debate, would be modeled after similar panels during the Vietnam War and World War II.
Lieberman, whom the Bush administration has praised repeatedly for his war stance, defended the president. "It's time for Democrats who distrust President Bush to acknowledge he'll be commander-in-chief for three more years," the senator said. "We undermine the president's credibility at our nation's peril."
There was no immediate response from the White House or congressional leaders.
Lieberman made his comments to an audience at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a sympathetic Washington research group. The war debate, Lieberman said, is being too poisoned by partisanship.
He cited the mood after Bush's speech last week in Annapolis, where the president laid out a war strategy.
Instead of reasoned dialogue, Lieberman said, there were angry press conferences questioning the administration's tactics. But look more closely, he said, and "there is broad bipartisan agreement on the goals. There are disagreements about the tactics."
Lieberman cited historic figures like former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and former U.S. Sen. Arthur Vandenberg, whose call for bipartisanship after World War II helped the Allied effort to rebuild Western Europe, and tried to summon their spirit.
"We can't tolerate the kind of division that current exists in our country," the senator said. "Why are we fighting among those who have the same goals?"
The senator could face a challenge from former Sen. Lowell Weicker, whom Lieberman defeated in 1988. Lieberman only smiled today when asked if Weicker would be a tough opponent.
"I understand the position I'm taking on the war in Iraq is controversial," Lieberman said. "In a sheer political sense, it would be easier to keep quiet."
As for Weicker, he would only say, "I'm very grateful to the people of Connecticut to serve them in the Senate the last 17 years. I'm proud of what I've been able to do."
Lieberman said he had not yet figured out details of how his cabinet would work. It would probably meet weekly and discuss conditions in Iraq, and perhaps recommend policy.
Decisions on spending and how to implement and execute policy would remain with the executive and legislative branches.
Lieberman plans to send a letter to congressional leaders and the White House today outlining his proposal.
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