President Bush made a surprise visit to Baghdad Tuesday to participate in his first direct talks with Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, offering a dramatic show of support to the new government. Two senior senators on the foreign relations committee consider the visit and the road ahead in Iraq.
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And now, how the president's hours in Iraq and beyond look to the Republican chairman and the ranking Democrat of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senators Richard Lugar of Indiana and Joe Biden of Delaware.
Senator Lugar, how do you see the value of the president's trip today?
SEN. RICHARD LUGAR (R), Indiana: It focused the attention of the Iraqi people and the American people, and in the most personal way, on our support for the new government, and clearly questions could be raised by the president and by the cabinet people.
I suspect that it also was a boost in morale for our Armed Forces in Iraq. Clearly, they're cheering the president. It was resounding. They were pleased to see him. The issues, obviously, go well beyond the boost of today's appearance, but it was dramatic, surprised, and probably very successful.
Successful and positive, do you think, with a positive effect?
SEN. RICHARD LUGAR:
Yes. I think it was positive. I heard your correspondents indicate that the president is not popular and Americans may not be particularly popular in Baghdad. That, I suspect, is always going to be a matter of speculation as to where we stand on those fronts.
But, in any event, it must have been impressive, I think to most around the world that the president went to Baghdad and was in the Green Zone today, physically visiting with the new president, and reassuring him that we have confidence.
Senator Biden, do you agree, positive, successful?
SEN. JOE BIDEN (D), Delaware: I agree, but I don't think you should confuse an event with a strategy. And I hope, in that private meeting with the president, with Maliki, I hope the president talked about a joint plan as to how to purge the police and the military of the sectarian thugs that are a part of it.
I hope he talked about how to deal with the insurgency, how to get the Sunnis to buy in, and how to keep the neighbors out. That's a strategy.
I think time's going to tell whether or not this represents a new strategy or merely a reliance upon a government that has now 250,000 people in uniform, but still totally incapable of providing for their own security at this point.