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.
"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.
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."