ABC News’ Z. Byron Wolf reports: Democratic leaders have asked the major television news networks for time on Thursday night to respond to President Bush’s Iraq speech.
The man who will offer the Democratic response to Bush’s appeal to the nation is Democratic Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island — a senator most Americans have never heard of from a small state.
The president is expected to announce his plan of a gradually withdrawing "surge" forces by next summer to the pre-surge troop level of as many as 130,000 soldiers and Marines — conditional on Iraq stability.
Democratic leaders have argued the plan is a continuation of a war increasingly unpopular with the public and members of Congress.
Reed, a West Point graduate, has been to Iraq 10 times since the war started. Democrats feel Reed’s military background gives him credibility on defense issues and he has been front and center in Democrats’ attempts to change Iraq policy. He voted against giving President Bush the authority to invade Iraq in 2002, and sits on both the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Defense subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee.
Reed is the co-sponsor of a Democratic amendment in Congress to withdraw American combat troops. The amendment has gone through several iterations in the past six months — from attempting to mandate a beginning date for withdrawal of combat troops to attempting to mandate an end-date for withdrawal of combat troops.
During the congressional testimony of Army General David Petraeus, Reed took the general to task over the 30,000 troop drawdown, pointing out that it is not really an elective drawdown.
The Army can’t function at surge levels anymore and in this case, Reed argued, the military is taking an alarming ceiling on the military’s capacity and presenting it as an operational decision to allay the public.
Petraeus told Reed he doesn’t know if the military can provide troops to continue the surge because he has not formally asked the service chiefs for them.