Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 22, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

DUELING RESOLUTIONS....John Warner, former Republican chair of the Senate Armed Forces Committee, plans to introduce a resolution opposing President Bush's "surge" in Iraq. Steve Benen wonders if this is helpful to the cause:

Warner is considered an elder statesman of the Senate GOP caucus, in addition to being a credible, experienced voice on foreign policy and national security issues. If Warner steps away from the White House, he takes some Republican colleagues with him.

....That said, it's a complicated political dynamic, and Warner's new resolution, while certainly bad news for the White House, isn't necessarily great news for the Senate's efforts to criticize the president. War critics had been moving towards backing the bi-partisan Biden-Hagel-Levin resolution, unveiled last week. Though I have not yet seen the language, it appears that Warner's measure will include weaker, less-forceful language.

A nonbinding resolution is a purely political document that has no effect on actual policy, so the only test of the language is what effect it has on public opinion. Given that, which is better: a stronger statement that clearly differentiates war supporters and war opponents, or a weaker statement that gets more votes? Like Steve, I'll wait to see what Warner's actual language is. But I'm inclined to agree that stronger language is better. If Warner's resolution is more than slightly watered down from the Biden-Hagel-Levin language, it does more harm than good.

Kevin Drum 12:36 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (41)

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Yeah, but a resolution that only squeaks through is instantly dismissed as just more partisan politics. It's not really news that you can get 51 democratic senators to say that the surge is a bad idea. If you can get a large majority, in the press it becomes "bipartisan". You have to remember that no one except a few foreign policy wonks are actually going to read the thing, so what it says is less important than what is said about it. (It is a non-binding resolution, after all.)

Posted by: doktorwise on January 22, 2007 at 1:12 PM | PERMALINK

"Dueling" implies two contestants. But there are so many different resolutions and bills now introduced that I've lost count. There's the Levin one, the Kennedy-Murtha one, and it looks like Hillary and Obama both want to have their own. Then there's a Republican "support the Leader" resolution and who knows how many others, along with a "withdraw now" bill from the leftmost members of Congress.

Posted by: Joe Buck on January 22, 2007 at 1:13 PM | PERMALINK

It's an unhappy day for Bush if John Warner is in opposition to the surge. Heck, HR 5122, the National Defense Authorization Act for 2007, was named after Warner (i.e., the "John Warner National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2007").

Posted by: Robb Pearson on January 22, 2007 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

Instead of having a pissing contest, Congress ought to evacuate the national waste by impeaching the president.

Posted by: Brojo on January 22, 2007 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

Well, alot like the resolution to get Plame retirement even thoogh she left her job early and was, supposedly, on disability; the answer may be that other employees can do the same after the legislation is put through. The no surge resolution may have the same type of goal. Maybe this could be explained?

Posted by: Sal Te on January 22, 2007 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

I think the right thing to do is jump to the Warner resolution, since it will lead to the most lopsided vote. If the Biden-Hagel resolution gets you, say, five Republicans (Coleman, Smith, Hagel, Snowe, Collins?, maybe one or two more), and the Warner resolution gets you fifteen, I think you want the headline "65 Senators push Bush to move Iraq towards withdrawl over time" rather than "Democrats and some Renegade Republicans oppose the surge".

Posted by: Nicholas Beaudrot on January 22, 2007 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK
A nonbinding resolution is a purely political document that has no effect on actual policy

Not true. A nonbinding resolution (such as the rejection of a strawman version of Kyoto) is a political act that can quite easily have a substantive effect on actual policy; just because it is "nonbinding" does not mean it has no effect, and political acts are almost always made with the intent of having either an immediate or indirect policy effect, sometimes one that is obvious from the face of the act, sometimes one that is more subtle.

Posted by: cmdicely on January 22, 2007 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

John Warner, former Republican chair of the Senate Armed Forces Committee, plans to introduce a resolution opposing President Bush's "surge" in Iraq. Steve Benen wonders if this is helpful to the cause

Cue Matthew Marler gloating at the difficulty Democrats are having getting a stubborn, delusional Bush to deal with reality in Iraq, and salivating at the prospect of planting the Dolchstoss dagger in the backs of Bush's political opposition.

Posted by: Gregory on January 22, 2007 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK

A nonbinding resolution is a purely political document that has no effect on actual policy,

A resolution that does not resolve anything?

Posted by: Extradite Rumsfeld on January 22, 2007 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

Bill Kristol's insistence that Democrats should just shut up for the next 6-9 months just imploded under the weight of its unreality.

Posted by: clb72 on January 22, 2007 at 1:50 PM | PERMALINK

Given what we know now about Bush and his opinions, what's the point of a non-binding resolution? Why are we talking about it?

Only laws have a chance of affecting things.

Posted by: American Citizen on January 22, 2007 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

The exact resolution is meaningless political theater. The public will not remember the actual language used by the authors of either resolution. In a week we will only remember that Biden, Hegal, Levin and Warner (and a lot of other folk) opposed the surge.

Posted by: Ron Byers on January 22, 2007 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

Only laws have a chance of affecting things.
Posted by: American Citizen on January 22, 2007 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

Given Bush's penchant for "signing statements" or otherwise outright ignoring the law - I'd say only FORCE has a chance of affecting things. In fact, I'd say; "these guys only understand one thing, force." (sound familiar?).

And that force should come in the form of IMPEACHMENT.

Posted by: Extradite Rumsfeld on January 22, 2007 at 2:00 PM | PERMALINK

Damn. OBF beat me to the signing statements point.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka Global Citizen) on January 22, 2007 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

Your wording makes it sound like Steve discussed the idea that Warner might do more harm than good. But he didn't. Steve's conclusion was that Warner's change of heart was undoubtedly a good thing because it suggests a trend toward a united Republican/Democratic position against the war. (Not his words.)

Huffington on Huffington Post talks about this today, as well --- that anti-Iraq feeling is no longer a right/left issue, even if the media portrays it that way.

Posted by: catherineD on January 22, 2007 at 2:03 PM | PERMALINK

Any anti-war resolution harms the morale of our soldiers and Iraqi allies and encourages our insurgent, terrorist enemies. So, a non-binding resolution does harm but does no good. It's a way for cowardly politicians to gain points with anti-war voters, but at a real cost to the civilized world.

Posted by: ex-liberal on January 22, 2007 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

Is there any reason a senator couldn't vote for both resolutions?

Posted by: bicmon on January 22, 2007 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

ex-lib, are your eyes brown? Because you are so full of shit it's to the point of needing medical attention for the blockage. You should stick with I DON'T KNOW,. Those are the only honest words you have ever posted, although in that context they confirmed your fecklessness.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka Global Citizen) on January 22, 2007 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

Malkin is under 42. She should enlist.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka Global Citizen) on January 22, 2007 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

Michelle Malkins site WHaaaa hah hahahhah ahahh ha hahhhaha hahha ha hha hhah ha hh ah hahh hhhhh hhhhhhhhhhhhhahhahaaaaaah hhhhh hahhah h ooooooohoohoho ooho oooaooaah hahhahahah ha hahhah ahahha hhahahaha hhah h h h. You are truly a nut job.

Posted by: Thomas3.6 1/2 on January 22, 2007 at 2:25 PM | PERMALINK

A better place for what the military is actually thinking than the malignant Malkin is Intel-Dump. Lots of military comment from those who have and do serve, without a lot of agenda-flogging.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka Global Citizen) on January 22, 2007 at 2:26 PM | PERMALINK

Oh God stop, Michelle Malkin, The same Michelle Malkin (John Kerry shunned) Michelle Malkin. The one even O'pilley Has to stick a cork in her but Malkin.Stop man your killing me .HAHhah hah ahhahahahhahah hah haaaooaooaooa ahha ha!!!! I can't believe you recomended her sight god your a idiot.

Posted by: Thomas3.6 1/2 on January 22, 2007 at 2:30 PM | PERMALINK

(with the usual caveats, haven't seen the language, non-binding, etc etc.)

Seems to me the thing that matters most is the headline 'Congress Passes Resolution Condemning Iraq Surge'.

The relative strength of the language matters very little. 90% of the public aren't going to care about the language, only that Congress passed a resolution.

Posted by: Robert Earle on January 22, 2007 at 2:32 PM | PERMALINK

Looks like Malkin got lots and lots of pretty pictures from Safe zones.Did you see the pic of her alone on her bed, 130,000 troops and she couldn't get laid.Talk about being shunned.

Posted by: Thomas3.6 1/2 on January 22, 2007 at 2:42 PM | PERMALINK

Robert Earle wrote: Seems to me the thing that matters most is the headline 'Congress Passes Resolution Condemning Iraq Surge'.

The relative strength of the language matters very little. 90% of the public aren't going to care about the language, only that Congress passed a resolution.

I agree. Our enemies in Iraq will see the same headline. They will be encouraged by the thought that the US is poised to quit.

Similarly, our allies will be less willing to take personal risks, relying in US support. This headline will discourage al Maliki from going after the Sadr brigades, because it suggests that al Sadr is more likely to take over the country when the US turns tail.

Posted by: ex-liberal on January 22, 2007 at 2:42 PM | PERMALINK

Why don't they do that now. Settle down give the impression that there done fighting the U.S. leaves and then they resume fighting.See just a bunch of bull about the outcome of a deadline.Did you know there is almost no fighting where there are no troops in Iraq, hmmmm what does that suggest???

Posted by: Thomas3.6 1/2 on January 22, 2007 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK


x-lib: Our enemies in Iraq will see the same headline. They will be encouraged by the thought that the US is poised to quit.


well...to prevent that...

looks like the perfect time for more bush defenders to sign up and surge!

what are they waiting for?

Posted by: mr. irony on January 22, 2007 at 3:24 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry Kevin, I disagree with you. You need to back away and look at this from a great distance. From that viewpoint, the vote total is far more important than the verbage of the bill. I am sure inside the beltway there would be discussions about this or that not being in the bill...but on the evening news and what the public hears--its the vote totals and how many Repubicans vote against the prez.

Posted by: Cameron Pohlman on January 22, 2007 at 4:05 PM | PERMALINK

Any anti-war resolution harms the morale of our soldiers . . . .
Posted by: ex-liberal on January 22, 2007 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

I've been waiting FOUR fucking years for one of you wingnuts to bring up the "M" word.

You know what gets troops morale down?

BEING LIED TO.
Surreptitious tour extensions.
Being sent into a combat zone without enough armor while contractors are making ten times as much.

If I were a soldier in Iraq, - I'd appreciate a little honesty from my commander in chief. My morale would be better if I were treated like an adult, and told the truth. And DON'T BLOW SUNSHINE UP MY ASS!

Posted by: Extradite Rumsfeld on January 22, 2007 at 4:06 PM | PERMALINK

Extradite Rumsfeld: You know what gets troops morale down?

BEING LIED TO.
Surreptitious tour extensions.
Being sent into a combat zone without enough armor while contractors are making ten times as much.

If I were a soldier in Iraq, - I'd appreciate a little honesty from my commander in chief. My morale would be better if I were treated like an adult, and told the truth. And DON'T BLOW SUNSHINE UP MY ASS!

Extradite Rumsfeld makes the logical error of assuming that because s/he feels a certain way, troops in Iraq must feel the same way. In fact, our troops in Iraq have very high morale.

"This war is strange. I never hear soldiers worried about their own morale sagging. Contrary, the war-fighters here are more concerned to bolster the morale of the people at home. . . . The morale at war is higher than I have ever seen it at home; makes me wonder what they know that most Americans seem to be missing." http://instapundit.com/archives2/2007/01/post_1388.php

One thing President Bush and Secretary Rumsfeld have done very well is to maintain high troop morale, despite all the negativity in the media.

Posted by: ex-liberal on January 22, 2007 at 4:25 PM | PERMALINK

Anecdotal evidence from Instahack? Color me convinced...

Posted by: Gregory on January 22, 2007 at 4:31 PM | PERMALINK

hey never-liberal,

Don't speak for the troops unless you are one, and you're there or you've been there recently.

And don't try to excuse this disastrous war or your support for it by pointing to the fact that our troops haven't committed mass mutiny (yet). Our political leaders have decided to put them into harm's way. We have to decide whether we still want to have those leaders.

I don't know if you've been tracking any polls or election returns lately, but the answer to that one is a big fat nooooooooo.

Posted by: clb72 on January 22, 2007 at 4:33 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin:

I think you're wrong in this case. What will Fox News and the other networks say? That a resolution opposing Bush's escalation and sponsored by John Warner and other Republicans passed the Senate by 65+ votes out of 100. An overwhelming vote will be the best possible outcome for two reasons:

1) It will prove that Bush has lost control over decisions about Iraq, thus reducing his ability to make future stupid decisions;
2) It will give Democrats political cover for future, tougher resolutions.

Just as we cannot fight a war when divided by party, we should not end a war when divided by partisanship. Warner's resolution gives the Bush opposition bi-partisan cover; we need this.

Posted by: Barry on January 22, 2007 at 5:39 PM | PERMALINK

"It's a success story for al-Qaeda, a success story for autocratic Arab regimes that made democracy look ugly in their people's eyes. They can say to their people: 'Look at the democracy that the Americans want to bring to you. Democracy is trouble. You may as well forget about what the Americans promise you. They promise you death,' " said Salameh Nematt, a Jordanian analyst and the former Washington bureau chief for the Arabic-language daily newspaper al-Hayat.

Posted by: Alan in SF on January 22, 2007 at 6:41 PM | PERMALINK

We're looking for the sweet-spot on the forceful/breadth of support continuum--right?

I'd put it somewhere around .66666. That is find language which 2/3 of the Senateors can support.

Posted by: BroD on January 22, 2007 at 7:38 PM | PERMALINK

Why the sudden change from Virginia Senator John Warner? Two words:

George Allen.

Allen was considered unbeatable. Just like Warner. The two of 'em stood up as gutless rubber stamps for the administration in one embarrassment after another. Oh sure, Allen made plenty of other mistakes on his way to not-re-election. But Allen's role as rubber stamp for an incredibly unpopular war and the official Worst President Ever played a huge part ot play in Webb's win. Don't think Warner hasn't been paying attention.

Sorry, but Warner's sudden discovery of a spine comes not from personal integrity--which he's shown none of in six years. No, it comes from pure poll-watching politics.

Posted by: curious on January 22, 2007 at 8:17 PM | PERMALINK

Nicholas Boudrot: I think the right thing to do is jump to the Warner resolution, since it will lead to the most lopsided vote.

Besides your argument (following the quote), once the Republicans vote against Bush once, it will be easier for them to vote for a stronger bill later. In other contexts, this is the "thin end of the wedge" strategy. I also agree with cmdicely's argument that a non-binding resolution can have a desired effect at a later time. It takes time for the Congress to assert its collective will on an issue, and passing a series of incremental resolutions is a way for them to demonstrate that they remain "seized of the matter".

Posted by: calibantwo on January 22, 2007 at 9:02 PM | PERMALINK

ex-liberal: This headline will discourage al Maliki from going after the Sadr brigades, because it suggests that al Sadr is more likely to take over the country when the US turns tail.

I am sure that arguments like that will be made during the debates. Remember that the Iraq Study Group did not advocate immediate withdrawal.

Posted by: calibantwo on January 22, 2007 at 9:08 PM | PERMALINK

A nonbinding resolution just in case Bush doesn't feel like doing anything Warner suggest.

Baker was the first to say Bush need not follow any recommendation of his study group, and of course Bush didn't take any of the commitees advise. So now we have Sen. Warner who wants to do the same thing.

Warner just wants to it just make voters think Warner gives a crap?

When John Warner sat on the same committee that Carl Levin now leads, Warner NEVER went against Bush, NOT EVER, never provided a ounce of over-sight, not once.

If Warner steps away from the White House, he takes some Republican colleagues with him.

Oh that's bullshit.

Warner is utterlly, completely, and totally committed to Bush/Cheney. Senator Warner can’t stop kissing Bushie's ass hard enough, and nothing has changed about Sen. Warner.

Nope, Warner is only trying to give Bushie his way and THAT is all THIS STUPID BILL IS BEING PRESENTED FOR, it's a derailment bill.

Warner is NOT backing away, and our press knows this full well – and so should Kevin Drum by now. I mean tell me one time Warners ever did anything against Bush? Warner could never do anything but kiss Dick Cheney’s ass, and Warner hasn’t stop sucking up royally to the Bushies.

This is derailment bill. It should be ignored.


Posted by: Cheryl on January 22, 2007 at 9:22 PM | PERMALINK

I agree--this non-binding resolution stuff seems weak and ineffective. I am actually kind of pissed. Bush adminstration officials argued Wednesday they would still be able to conduct domestic surveillence because of new rules adopted by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, claiming they did nothing wrong before. And I blame Arlen Specter. If you read it in the press, it is gobbetygook. But the Washington Post headline reads "Bush backing off extensive powers gathered after 9/11."
It says under pressure from Congress and the courts, Mr. Bush in the last six months has shut down secret prisons overseas CIA prisons, tranferred previously unidentified detainees to regular military custody, negotiated congressional approval for tribunal to try foreign terror suspects and accepted at least some regulation of how harshly prisoners could be interrogated. By Peter Baker, Washington Post, 1/21/07
It struck me as unlikely.

Just like the Cowboys in '79 with their touchdown, 2 minutes, 27 seconds to go- and the Steelers, all their men up on the 45, Dallas has it, Pgh comes in with 14 points, first down Dallas, 2:16 to play, 35-24, another first down, what can Bradshaw do? Glenn Edward intercepts. Staubach throws, Furness from the Steelers limps off, 4th down, 18 Dallas ball, 52 seconds remaining, Joe Greene is being taken out, Dallas behind by 11, what a catch, stops the clock--this baby is not over yet. Darned good control. Drew Pearson limps off. I see the name "Lawless' on the sidelines--he he, ha ha. Down to 32, nervous ticks on the clock.
No good. Intended for Preston Pearson. No where to go for Staubach. Then touchdown-- Johnson. Time for another kick, these babies are not over. 22 seconds. Kick is up and good. That's the story of the desperate Dallas drive. Oh, Pittsburgh has it--they recovered it. Good old Rocky Blier, of the Steelers, 20 seconds, 19, and of course, Tom Landry had some bad luck--the wide open pass, Chuck Knoll about to win--17 seconds to go--Cowboys out of time outs. Cowboys lose.
Take a lesson from football?

Posted by: consider wisely always on January 23, 2007 at 12:05 AM | PERMALINK

Reid to Warner: "I'll see your 'augmentation' and raise you to 'increase'".
Warner's a smooth politician and he's trying to give some Republicans such as Susan Collins some cover. But the Dems should extract a price by eschewing the White House's preferred language ("augmentation") and claiming for themselves the term which most Americans use to describe this: "troop INCREASE". They can continue to use "escalation" on t eh hustings, and woe to the Republs who vote against "increase".

Posted by: phiddle on January 23, 2007 at 7:55 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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