You have been one of the most vocal Republicans in opposing the war. Was there one moment that tipped you?
It was a combination of things. I remember asking in hearing after hearing [before the war]: "What happens after Saddam goes down?" At every turn, the Congress was assured, "Don't worry. We know what we're doing. We have plans." Well, they didn't, and we put our troops in the middle of this. I'm concerned about General [David] Petraeus [the new U.S. military leader in Iraq] and some of my colleagues building him up as the most significant conqueror since Napoleon. Petraeus is a first-rate general, but he's not a miracle worker.
How do you respond to people who say passing a nonbinding resolution like the one you introduced in the Senate opposing the troop surge doesn't matter?
Of course it matters. We don't want to get into a position where the American people in six to eight months are so frustrated they demand an immediate cutoff of funds. That's not the way we want to have to leave Iraq, so you have these debates now.
You described Arizona Senator John McCain's support of a resolution backing the surge but calling for benchmarks to evaluate Iraqi performance "disingenuous" after he criticized your resolution. Has this affected your friendship?
This has nothing to do with our friendship. There is no one I admire or respect more than John. I thought [his resolution] was duplicitous. It lays out benchmarks for the Iraqis, but doesn't attach any consequences.
Why not air these concerns in private since the President is in your party?
I've talked to this Administration many times in private, but I have an obligation that's far higher than to the President. That's part of our job: oversight. After four years of disaster in Iraq, there are some in the party who think we should still tiptoe around this. That's irresponsible.
Will this war have the same impact on U.S. foreign policy that Vietnam did?
It's headed in that direction. The American people changed the management of Congress on Nov. 7 because of Iraq, so this war already has had significant consequences and will continue to.
Would the war have gone better if John Kerry had won in 2004?
Well, I don't think you can go back and undo those kinds of things.
Is it important that the next President be a veteran?
[Combat experience] puts you in a position not to think of war as an abstraction but as a very real event of significant suffering. If you don't personally have that experience, then putting people around you who have that experience is important. In the Bush Administration's case, there was only one person who had anything close to that experience, and that was Colin Powell, the one person they listened to least.
What do you think of presidential hopeful Barack Obama saying it's time for "a new generation" of leadership?
I don't think it's the right way to approach our country by putting people in boxes if you're too old. I know 80-year-olds who are more creative than 40-year-olds.
Do you ever yell "Mr. President" to see which of your colleagues turns around first?
I have never bought into degrading people who offer themselves as candidates for President. This reference that is often used "wannabes"? Well, Ronald Reagan was once a wannabe. John Kennedy was a wannabe.
Are you going to run for President?
I'll let you know.