Florida Republican on 'surge': 'The benefits were temporary, the bodybags were permanent'
A Florida Republican explained on the House floor today that he would not support President George W. Bush's troop escalation because it was bound to be a failure. Rep. Ric Keller criticized an earlier surge policy, warning that "the benefits were temporary, the body bags were permanent."
The junior congressman's speech may signal softening of support among the House Republican caucus for the president's "new direction forward in Iraq."
Rep. Ric Keller is in his fourth term as the Representative from the area of Orlando, FL. He took the House floor earlier today to say that he would vote to support the Democratic non-binding resolution that "disapproves" of the president's plan to escalate the number of troops in Iraq by more than 20,000.
"Interjecting more young American troops into the cross hairs of an Iraqi civil war is simply not the right approach," said Keller.
The Florida Republican offered a harsh criticism of Bush's approach, noting that it had been tried before and failed.
"We tried the same thing last summer," he said. "The benefits were temporary, the body bags were permanent."
Keller did say that if the President continues with the escalation, he would not vote against funding the operations. But he offered an alternative set of "surges" for the president to pursue.
"I am for a surge of Iraqi troops to take out al Sadr and his militia," he said. "I am for a surge of political progress by the Iraqi government... I am for a surge of action in implementing Iraq Study Group recommendations... I am for a surge of gratitude by the Iraqi people."
In concluding Keller noted, "We are not going to solve an Iraqi political problem with an American military solution, and that's my best judgment."
In the course of his floor speech today, he remarked, "I like and respect President Bush, I want him to be successful."
Keller has received significant support for the Bush White House in the past. On April 22, 2002, the Florida Republican received help in his reelection campaign from Vice President Dick Cheney. An AP article from that day said Keller raised $225,000 in a fundraiser in his district that was attended by 270 guests and had Vice President Dick Cheney as its guest speaker.
"Vice President Cheney and President Bush make it easy to run for re-election because we have a real positive agenda to run on," Keller said to AP at the time.
Keller's full speech from the House floor can be viewed below.