Mark Warner: World Help Needed to Stabilize Iraq

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Mark Warner

Mark Warner, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Jan. 27, 2006. Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

Scroll down to read an analysis of Mark Warner's potential presidential candidacy.

Mark Warner isn't saying whether he'll jump into the Democratic race for president in 2008, as many expect him to, but the former Virginia governor has some advice about the war in Iraq for the next commander-in-chief.

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"First of all, get rid of [Defense Secretary Donald] Rumsfeld," he tells Steve Inskeep in an interview, echoing remarks made by several former generals in recent days. "It's remarkable in my mind that the architect of this war is still calling the shots. A failed Iraq is not in America's best long-term interest.

"We've got to look at how we cannot simply make this an American problem," Warner says. He says there needs to be more international involvement to help stabilize Iraq — via either a regional "contact group" like the one that has been involved in dealing with North Korea's nuclear ambitions, or a U.N. high commissioner.

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The goal should be to leave Iraq "in no worse shape, at least in terms of threatening to America and destabilizing to the region, than before we went in," Warner says.

"I'm not one that believes we can set an arbitrary deadline. But I think if we don't see the Iraqis themselves come together in weeks, not months, in terms of forming this unity government and then if we don't see measurable progress in months, not years, after this government is formed, then I think we have to look at a way to get out. We don't need American troops simply playing referee inside a civil war in Iraq."

On other issues, Warner says he would bring the same business-like approach he employed as governor of Virginia to the federal government. He says he would not rule out tax increases to help tackle the budget deficit.

"You start on lowering federal spending," Warner says. "At the end of the day, do you still potentially have to look at revenues? You don't take anything off the table, but you start, like any smart business person would, by tightening your belt and looking at how you can actually reform operations."

Mark Warner Rides On Virginia Success

Former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner is riding the crest of a pretty gnarly political wave right now.

He helped his lieutenant governor, Tim Kaine, win the election to succeed him last November (in Virginia, governors can only serve one four-year term). Now Warner is meeting with curious and sometimes enthusiastic audiences of the Democratic Party faithful in places like New Hampshire and Iowa — people who are eager to see the man who has shown that Democrats can win in red, Southern states.

About Mark Warner

Born: Dec. 15, 1954, in Indianapolis, Ind.

 

Education: George Washington University, 1977; law degree from Harvard University, 1980

 

Public Service: Virginia governor, 2002-06; (unsuccessfully challenged U.S. Sen. John Warner, R-VA, 1996)

 

Professional Career: Fundraiser, Democratic National Committee, 1980-82; Venture capitalist, 1982-89; Managing Director, Columbia Capital Corp., 1989-2001; Chairman, Virginia Democratic Party, 1993-95

 

Family: Married, three daughters

 

Source: Almanac of American Politics

And he's being touted by some as the anti-Hillary — the strongest alternative to perceived front-runner Senator Hillary Clinton for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination.

Warner was elected governor of Virginia in 2001. It was his second try at elective office. He lost a challenge to Republican Sen. John Warner (no relation) in 1996. Raised in Indiana and Connecticut, he went to George Washington University and Harvard Law School. Mark Warner came to politics after making a fortune as an early investor in the cell phone industry. And he's been willing to use that fortune to help finance his political career.

Warner's successful gubernatorial campaign focused on attracting support not only from traditional Democratic strongholds, such as the Washington, D.C., suburbs of Northern Virginia along with Richmond and Hampton Roads, but also from rural voters. Long part of the Republican base, these voters were open to Warner's pro-growth, no-tax-increase economic message. His campaign sponsored a NASCAR race truck, and neutralized the issue of gun control (a traditional vulnerability for Democrats among rural voters) by saying that no further gun laws were necessary.

Once in office, Warner worked to keep his promises, bringing economic development to isolated southwest Virginia, and introducing broadband access to the area. But a decline in state revenues led to Warner reneging on his no-new-taxes pledge. The Republican legislature provided him some cover, however, ultimately approving a tax package larger than the one Warner had proposed.

He left office with skyrocketing popularity in the polls.

Now Warner faces a new challenge, convincing Democrats (including donors) that he can overcome a lack of foreign-policy credentials and rise above his local appeal to become a serious national candidate. He's also mindful of the fact that the last three Democratic presidents — Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter and Lyndon Johnson — all hailed from the South.

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