Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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May 24, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

DEMS AND THE WAR....Like a lot of people, I've been mulling over the Iraq showdown between Congress and the president and wondering why Democrats backed down so quickly. The simple answer, of course, is that they didn't have enough votes to pass the bill they wanted. As excuses go, however, that's pretty unconvincing: veto-proof majorities are extremely rare, after all. Rather, the real reason is that Dems were convinced that if things came to an impasse and war funding was cut off, they're the ones who would get the blame.

And maybe that's right. One interpretation of the great budget showdown of 1995 is that the president has an inherent advantage in this kind of fight since he can speak with one voice and make his bottom line clear. Congress, by contrast, will always seem fractious and will never be able to communicate to the public as clearly as the president. If they refuse to send him a workable bill, they're the ones who will seem stubborn and petty, not the president.

But there's also a different interpretation: that the public will side with whoever they agree with on the merits. Maybe that seems naive in our spin-ridden, media saturated age. But you never know. People might actually support the side they agree with. Stranger things have happened.

If that's the case, it means that Bill Clinton won his showdown with Newt Gingrich not because of his bully pulpit, but because Gingrich wanted to make cuts in social programs that the public didn't support. And in fact, that's exactly what happened. Clinton's position was the popular one in that battle, so Gingrich ended up getting the blame for shutting down the government.

This time around, though, the public is pretty clearly on the side of congressional Democrats: they think the war is going badly and they want to see us withdraw from Iraq within the next year. So what would have happened if Dems had held their ground, made a public case for why it would actively benefit the country to get out of Iraq, and simply sent a lightly modified version of the original bill back to Bush? If he'd vetoed it again, isn't it likely that Bush would get the blame for being stubborn and petty, not Congress?

This strikes me as at least plausible. However, I suspect it depends on Democrats making a positive case for withdrawal. Not just that the war is unwinnable, or that it's costing too many lives — both of which seem merely defeatist to a lot of people — but that America will be actively better off by getting out of Iraq. I admit that's a tough case to make, since we liberals have been less than totally candid about acknowledging the almost certain chaos and bloodshed that will follow an American departure. With that in mind, Democrats likely fear that if we forced a withdrawal we'd spend all of 2008 on the defensive as Republicans insisted that Dems were to blame for the ongoing civil war in Iraq. The public, not having been prepared for this, might agree.

But I doubt it. The public wants out, and the death toll is so high now that they'd likely accept that further bloodshed was bound to occur whether we had stayed or not. Unfortunately, Dems don't have the courage to take that chance. Apparently they'd rather fight next year's election with an unpopular Republican war in the background rather than take the chance of fighting it with an unpopular Democratic withdrawal in the background. As a result, we've missed yet another chance to look decisive on foreign policy, do the right thing in Iraq, and start the process of pulling ourselves out of the hole Bush has dug us into and giving the next president a clean slate to start building a non-insane national security policy on.

If you display conviction, the public will follow. Maybe next time around Dems will finally figure this out.

Kevin Drum 7:40 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (123)

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Comments

Here's my thing though - what happens after the public sides with us? The President changes his mind and lets the troops come home? No. He finds some way to finance them, and he keeps them there. Then we have news reports about how new uparmored humvees aren't getting to the troops, etc.

It's not just the war over public opinion, it's what happens next.

Posted by: Steve W. on May 24, 2007 at 7:44 PM | PERMALINK

Time for a strong Independent Party.

The Democrats clearly showed how wedded they are to perpetuawar.

I am now certain that the political solutions to our problems have faded into the background.

The Iraq War Funding fiasco has revealed the deep addiction both parties have for war-mongering.

Spineless, is too kind a word for the pathetic actions of our elected (are they really "leaders?") officials, today, In DC.

Maybe now we know why "impeachment" was off the table?

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on May 24, 2007 at 7:47 PM | PERMALINK

This strikes me as at least plausible. However, I suspect it depends on Democrats making a positive case for withdrawal. Not just that the war is unwinnable, or that it's costing too many lives — both of which seem merely defeatist to a lot of people — but that America will be actively better off by getting out of Iraq.

This is what I was talking about in the earlier thread. The Democrats in Congress need to say "we're getting out of Iraq because it's making America less safe, it's making our enemies in the region stronger and it's driving up the price of oil."

The military brass and GI Joes all know this. They've been begging for us to get a clue and show some leadership on the issue since they told John Murtha that the war was lost and we need to get out before it destroys our military capability.

Posted by: Old Hat on May 24, 2007 at 7:51 PM | PERMALINK

It seems Dems are still living in the world where it's all about manuvering and fashioning clever tactics to avoid the dreaded Bush blame.

That time has past. This president has sub-30% approval ratings. According to all polls, he's not trusted and has no credibility. But they're worried they'll be blamed by him for "not backing the troops". It's like dog that's been hit so many times, all that's needed now is to raise your hand and it cowers.

This is a war that's killing thousands, emptying our treasury and holding our country hostage to an untenable situation. It's not complicated. It appears most Americans understand this and want someone to stand up on principal.

The polls show Americans want out of Iraq with clear timetables. Why does it take so much courage to give people what they want? Backing down so quickly makes a mockery of any principaled stand on this abominable war.

Posted by: jrw on May 24, 2007 at 7:53 PM | PERMALINK

That seems about right Kevin.

The good news is Congressional Dems will be able to try again later this year when the various spending bills for next year come up (such as for the Defense Dept.). Let's hope they have more conviction this time.

Posted by: thisiscmt on May 24, 2007 at 7:54 PM | PERMALINK

I'll bet there are many folks "out there" who are now wondering why they gave so much $$ to the dems. I'm pissed.

The presnit is polling at 30%. What are they afraid of?

Meanwhile, back in Iraq, more of the same.

Posted by: bobbywally on May 24, 2007 at 7:54 PM | PERMALINK

They shouldn't have been afraid of shutting down funding for the war, if they KNEW Bush wouldn't sign it, and they KNEW they were absolved the RESPONSIBILITY of overriding the veto. It's all on Bush's head either way. Either he'd listen and sign, or he'd fight, and veto.

Dems need to remember that fighting and losing the battle, sometimes you win the war. This way, they're going to get blamed for continuing the war.

Which should Democratic politicians fear more? The wrath of the Republican war supporters, who already hate them? Or the wrath of the Democratic voters, who decided to give them a chance in November 2006?

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on May 24, 2007 at 7:55 PM | PERMALINK

Some days ago I emailed my congressman (Adam Schiff) asking that he support the resolution to impeach Cheney. The reply I got, when stripped of the usual political obfuscation and issue dodging, basically claimed that he'd loved to do so but thought it was more important to get out of Iraq.

OK, Mr Schiff and everyone else who thinks like you. We tried it your way; and no-one is leaving Iraq this year. How about now your change your freaking mind, get with the program, and realize that there is NO higher priority than getting Bush and Cheney at least out of office (and ideally behind bars). Until these two are out of power everything else people care about, whether it's greenhouse gases, torture or health-care is going nowhere.

Posted by: Maynard Handley on May 24, 2007 at 7:57 PM | PERMALINK

Here's another theory: the Democratic leadership is keeping its powder dry, but not necessarily all the way until November 2008.

Time is on the Democrats' side. More and more of the public is turning against Bush and the war. At the same time, the turn to a majority against the war is relatively recent -- months, not years -- and there's a lot of the public still close to the fence, if not on it. Every day, every casualty report, every bombing, every appearance by some Administration mouthpiece spouting obvious platitudes and falsehoods, moves more of the public further away from the fence, and toward the Democrats' position.

And whom are the Democrats "losing," by delaying? The most liberal, anti-war parts of the party? Are they going to desert the Democrats? Ridiculous. Are they going to withdraw and sulk, like the Christian Right used to do? Unlikely -- there's too much blood in the water, and every time Bush shows up on TV, they're back on the warpath.

So what's to be lost by delaying? A little face among the most committed. And what's to be gained? Solidification of the majority.

The fact is, the cold-blooded political calculation yields clear results: delay, pin the war ever tighter on Bush and the Republicans, and wait for the Titanic to sink -- ever so slowly, but no less inevitably for that -- beneath the waves.

Posted by: bleh on May 24, 2007 at 7:57 PM | PERMALINK

If wishy-washy vital centrist Kevin Drum thinks the Democrats surrendered too easily, the Dems have an even worse problem than progressives thought this morning.

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer on May 24, 2007 at 7:58 PM | PERMALINK

Terrific post, Kevin. Exactly my feelings.

Posted by: LuigiDaMan on May 24, 2007 at 7:58 PM | PERMALINK

Or the wrath of the Democratic voters, who decided to give them a chance in November 2006?

Even Republicans helped throw the bums out in 2006.

Who the hell are Congressional Democrats afraid of? Stuttering losers like Bush and his chickenhawk toadies on Fox News?

Show some sack.

Posted by: Old Hat on May 24, 2007 at 7:59 PM | PERMALINK

This strikes me as at least plausible. However, I suspect it depends on Democrats making a positive case for withdrawal. Not just that the war is unwinnable, or that it's costing too many lives — both of which seem merely defeatist to a lot of people — but that America will be actively better off by getting out of Iraq. I admit that's a tough case to make, since we liberals have been less than totally candid about acknowledging the almost certain chaos and bloodshed that will follow an American departure.

I don't think it is a lack of candor that could have given that impression, though of course it is hard to say if one defines a large and amorphous group of commenters as "liberals". Indeed, I'd argue that one of the main reasons for the opposition to war (other than the question of why attack a country which had nothing to do with the 911 events at that particular time when more urgent tasks (catching bin Laden) were left unfinished) was the very fact that we just don't go poking at wasp's nests without having an escape plan. The Bush administration chose to have no escape plan at all and now the wasps are stinging and will go on stinging for some time.

I wrote a lot about the folly of attacking a country without paying attention to its history and internal divisions, but of course I am a very tiny and shrill voice.

But the real question that needs to be answered here is whether keeping Americans in Iraq works as a stop for the bloodshed or perhaps as an extra incitement for even more bloodshed. I don't know how to answer that question.

Posted by: Echidne on May 24, 2007 at 8:00 PM | PERMALINK

Steve W: Sure, that's a problem. I just think that Dems are making more of it than they should. There's no way we're going to win 100% of the PR battle, after all. We just need to win 70% of it, and with even a halfway decent effort I think we can do that. If the public were against us, maybe we couldn't. But they are. The wind is at our backs.

Posted by: Kevin Drum on May 24, 2007 at 8:01 PM | PERMALINK

What's wrong with just telling the truth to the American people? Why not just say that (A) the war is one big SNAFU, (B) it came to this because of GWB's incompetence and innate inability to deal with the reality on the ground and (c) therefore we want to defund the war.

Even if the American people don't approve of this position overwhelmingly, they will at least know that the Dems acted in a principled fashion.

To try to couch the argument in positive terms (as Kevin suggestes) will inevitably lead to obfuscation, and the perception in the minds of the people that the Dems are lying to hide their real agenda.

Truth is always the best option, even in politics.

Posted by: gregor on May 24, 2007 at 8:05 PM | PERMALINK

And whom are the Democrats "losing," by delaying? So what's to be lost by delaying?

Uh, how about lives and billions of dollars? It's not Risk, bleh. The Democrats caved because they didn't want the GOP and the media calling them bad names.

Posted by: shnooky on May 24, 2007 at 8:09 PM | PERMALINK

the dems don't need to convince the public to leave, the public is already there. 2006 election? hello? every poll for months? hello? and then there is the iraqi public, who also want us to go (and incidentally a majority of whom think it is ok to kill us).

at april's death rate we are on track to lose 2101 more killed before we are rid of bush. anybody in favor of "staying the course"? then let's stop trying to prove we are the real wimps and send a bill up there with teeth. if he doesn't sign it, fine, let him explain why he wants to keep getting our soldiers killed and maimed and wasting our money on a project nobody but dead-enders wants.

Posted by: supersaurus on May 24, 2007 at 8:13 PM | PERMALINK

Newt Gingrich was also a demon, easily demonized. That role is played by GWB in today's scenario.

Posted by: gfw on May 24, 2007 at 8:14 PM | PERMALINK

The Democrats are like a beaten dog. They have been beat up by the right so many times for being soft on Communism, terrorism, whatever, that they can’t stop themselves from flinching. I wish I had more confidence in the American people, but I fear when the Republican slime machine starts the red meat speeches about the D’s letting the troops down, a significant part of the public (and most of the MSM) will fall for it, in spite of what the polls show. The good/bad/terrible news is that things will get worse before they get better, but that W. and R’s will continue to lose support and at some point the Democrats will find their backbone.

Posted by: fafner1 on May 24, 2007 at 8:23 PM | PERMALINK

How about this line: Why are the only people who want us to stay in Iraq the corrupt Malaki government and Halliburton?

That would sort of put things in perspective, wouldn't it?

Posted by: Old Hat on May 24, 2007 at 8:25 PM | PERMALINK

the dems don't need to convince the public to leave, the public is already there. 2006 election? hello?

The 2006 election was not about Iraq, and those running the Democratic Party know it. It was mostly about corruption, lobbying, vice, and other issues like that. If you've been reading the news, you can see why the Democrats don't want people reminded of those issues now.

Many of the Democratic winners in conservative districts were Blue Dogs, not Kucinich clones.

Posted by: rnc on May 24, 2007 at 8:28 PM | PERMALINK

Uh, how about lives and billions of dollars? It's not Risk, bleh. The Democrats caved because they didn't want the GOP and the media calling them bad names.

I don't think this is close to accurate. I agree with the first poster that the point everyone seems to be missing is that, on a substantive level, this battle between the Dems and Bush doesn't make a damn bit of difference. Sure, this is a bad PR loss for the Dems, and I wish they'd stuck to their guns, but Bush is not going to withdraw a significant number of troops as long as he is in office. No real change will happen until January 2009. Bush will find some way to fund the war and keep the troops there. It's as simple as that.

Posted by: RP on May 24, 2007 at 8:30 PM | PERMALINK

The 2006 election was not about Iraq, and those running the Democratic Party know it. It was mostly about corruption, lobbying, vice, and other issues like that.

Two words: Mark Foley. Timing is everything.

Posted by: shnooky on May 24, 2007 at 8:31 PM | PERMALINK

Bleh The fact is, the cold-blooded political calculation yields clear results.

True enough. But what's equation? Maybe the dems' political calculations are even more cynical and calculating than anyone here imagines? Maybe the dems, convinced of victory at the next election, actually prefer to inherit this status quo? Let's face it, what president, dem or smuglican, wouldn't prefer to rule like a mornarch? To have a population cowed by the threat of perpetual terror, where presidential powers are almost infinite, where huge and profitable military spending raises no complaints from anyone? I'm beginning to think the dems believe their best interests lie in taking over the world that Bush built and just managing it better, without reversing all those president-friendly features.

Posted by: billy on May 24, 2007 at 8:31 PM | PERMALINK

I think that it's not just that they caved that annoys me, but that:

a) they caved so easily, with so little protest and so little real negotation.
b) they got absolutely nothing.
c) they're trying to spin it as some sort of real change, some sort of victory, when everyone knows that it's not.

Posted by: PaulB on May 24, 2007 at 8:34 PM | PERMALINK

I agree, RP. However, bleh's post implied that the only issues involved were political and not real-world. "What's to be lost by delaying" is lives and billions of dollars, regardless of politics.

Posted by: shnooky on May 24, 2007 at 8:35 PM | PERMALINK

The 2006 election was not about Iraq, and those running the Democratic Party know it.

Kindly stop making shit up.

With Election Driven by Iraq, Voters Want New Approach

09/14/06 FOX News Poll: 2006 Election Is All About Iraq

Posted by: Old Hat on May 24, 2007 at 8:35 PM | PERMALINK

So what's to be lost by delaying? A little face among the most committed. And what's to be gained? Solidification of the majority.

What's lost? More American lives? Hell, more lives in general? MOre money as it's plunked down the sinkhole all the other warfunds are wasted on (considering they obviously aren't used on our troops)? And what solidification of majority happened? This has fractured the leadership, and it's a stab in the back to those who want this war done with, which is the MAJORITY OF THE AMERICAN PEOPLE.

All that's been solidified is that the leading Democrats in Washington can't stand bad names. And that's a weak damn excuse for torpedoing chances of actually sending a real message to the frauds in the White HOuse and on the other side of the aisle.

Posted by: Kryptik on May 24, 2007 at 8:35 PM | PERMALINK

And whom are the Democrats "losing," by delaying?
Posted by: bleh

U.S. military personnel? Hundreds of millions of dollars? U.S. security?

Posted by: JeffII on May 24, 2007 at 8:35 PM | PERMALINK

The 2006 election was not about Iraq, and those running the Democratic Party know it. It was mostly about corruption, lobbying, vice, and other issues like that. If you've been reading the news, you can see why the Democrats don't want people reminded of those issues now.

Hello? Part of that very corruption was this damn corrupt war.

Posted by: Kryptik on May 24, 2007 at 8:38 PM | PERMALINK

Iraq = #1 issue in the 2006 elections

http://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2006/special/issues/

Posted by: Old Hat on May 24, 2007 at 8:43 PM | PERMALINK

The 2006 election was not about Iraq, and those running the Democratic Party know it. It was mostly about corruption, lobbying, vice, and other issues like that.
Posted by: rnc on May 24, 2007 at 8:28 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, but you miss the bigger picture.
Iraq *IS* a corruption issue.

We're in Iraq for one reason only: War Profiteering.

Why else would they have LIED to get us in there in the first place?

And everyone knows it.

The question is:

Do you think it's okay?
(because some of those funds get recycled to Republican politicians who say they'll fight for smaller govt. more GOD, etc. - and because those funds came out of the taxes on the wealthy, so it's going back primarily to wealthy business owners - and because the more debt and deficit spending we do, the more we starve the beast - and because it makes the stock market go up, which makes Bush's tax cuts look good, and along the way, some bad people get killed, as well as poor schmucks who were dumb enough to sign-up, as well as some poor slobs in a different country we hate, because we saw them dancing in the streets on 9/11.)

Or do you think it's disgusting?

I'm starting to worry that too many of our Democratic Politicians are in the former camp.

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on May 24, 2007 at 8:43 PM | PERMALINK

Truth is always the best option, even in politics. ...by Gregor

Exactly.

But the problem is that the benefits of truth telling is neither obvious nor immediate. And our elected officials cannot see beyond their nose.

Posted by: ppk on May 24, 2007 at 8:45 PM | PERMALINK

The 2006 election was not about Iraq, and those running the Democratic Party know it. It was mostly about corruption, lobbying, vice, and other issues like that.

Yes, but you miss the bigger picture.

Um, no, the election wasn't primarily about corruption and the House leadership turning a blind eye to Republican pedofiles, that was all ancillary. Again, Iraq was the #1 issue.

Why do we continue to internalize Republican bullshit?

Posted by: Old Hat on May 24, 2007 at 8:47 PM | PERMALINK

A withdrawal is going to be messy, chaos will follow. And it will be even worse in Iraq. Look at how incompetently Bush has run the war, do you want this guy in charge of getting out?

The Dems got hung on the Vietnam withdrawal, even though Nixon/Kissinger were in charge. The country can't afford to let that happen again. The withdrawal will probably have to wait for a Democratic administration.

Posted by: tomeck on May 24, 2007 at 8:48 PM | PERMALINK

A good post by Mr. Drum.

I'm a war protester type - far from the military jock-sniffing "liberal" hawks who make up the prominant "left" in the MSM and blogs - but personally, I'd have a hard time deciding how to vote for this bill.

I don't think the Democratic politicians were acting out of a conflict of conscience, however.

Posted by: luci on May 24, 2007 at 8:48 PM | PERMALINK

I gotta agree with the Repunks on this one. The Dems are a bunch of wimps. I sent an email to my Rep and believe me his office is going to get a call in the morning. WTF is wrong with the Dems? I am seriously wondering if all the leadership Dems were wiretapped and Bush and his scumbags have stuff on all of them. I see no other reason for them to vote for this crap. And they don't even try to fight a decent fight. Somebody needs to slap Reid,Pelosi,Hoyer and Emanule upside the head.

Posted by: ann dover on May 24, 2007 at 8:48 PM | PERMALINK

The Dems got hung on the Vietnam withdrawal, even though Nixon/Kissinger were in charge. The country can't afford to let that happen again. The withdrawal will probably have to wait for a Democratic administration.

Bush is telegraphing his endgame. Saddling a Democratic president with withdrawal from Iraq is exactly what he wants. He doesn't give a flying fuck about Iraqis or democracy or winning, it's all politics all the time with these scumbags.

That's why Congress needs to defund the war now. Let him reap what he sowed. Sandbag him.

Posted by: Old Hat on May 24, 2007 at 8:54 PM | PERMALINK

could it have been a deal with the devil?

Lieberman threatening to bolt now if Reid includes the time tables. Reid decides that since no real chance for signing, better to keep Lieberman.

Posted by: erict on May 24, 2007 at 8:54 PM | PERMALINK

I forgot what I wanted to say originally before I started on my rant. When Americans were polled right before the poll, the number of American casualties that they thought were worth the war was 5,000. We aren't all that far from 5,000 especially when you consider that it's been a whole lot more deadly this year than previously. The poll was also before the war really became reality and before "shock and awe" was over. Just imagine the lack of support once we do reach 5,000 and we will reach 5,000 with moron in the office. One last thing, don't forget the Bushes like leaving poopy messes for their successors to clean up: re - Bush Sr. and Mogadishu.

Posted by: ann dover on May 24, 2007 at 8:55 PM | PERMALINK


Quite frankly the Dems have been caught between a rock and a hard place. Given what I have heard from the hard left--they will have hell to pay somehow. I think this war funding bill was a gamble for the democrats and clearly a win for the republicans.

Posted by: Vee Smith on May 24, 2007 at 9:04 PM | PERMALINK

The Dems are right to be cautious. It is not up to a political party alone to go into war or to end a war. It is up to the people. The Republicans faked the people to start the war. Political junkies know it, but the arrant fakery has yet to enter the consciousness the people.

Besides, if the Dems vote to stop funding, they will be blamed by the Republican fakers for the failure of the war. That would be a drag indeed. So slow and steady is the only way to go.

It is up to the people to sort it out.

Posted by: Bob M on May 24, 2007 at 9:09 PM | PERMALINK

The Dems are right to be cautious. It is not up to a political party alone to go into war or to end a war. It is up to the people.

For Chrissake, look at all of the current polling on Iraq! Look at the 2006 election results! The people want the war to be over and they want timetables!

Posted by: Old Hat on May 24, 2007 at 9:12 PM | PERMALINK

We are not going to stop the war by refusing to pass a supplemental appropriations bill. Bush will simply wrap himself in a cloak of claimed unitary-executive-commander-in-chief powers, and continue. We need 5 votes on the Supreme Court and/or 67 votes in the Senate to stop him, and we don't have them yet.

Since refusing to pass a supplemental approriations bill is not going to stop the war, it make no sense to spend political capital trying to do it.

Posted by: rea on May 24, 2007 at 9:15 PM | PERMALINK

I disagree with your point in this post.

In '95 there was a dispute over the budget, which did involve ideological points about use of funds.
But in the end there was a larger issue (also ideological) which is whether govt per se is a good thing and should generally be kept running.
Whether the existence of govt is optional, something to be toyed with.

People were reminded during the shutdown that basic services can be threatened and it turned out that middle America, even in swing and red states, want the basic continuity of govt to prevail.
Newt pushed his point too far, too fast.

Although a majority of Americans are certainly now against the war, in large numbers, this same theme of whether the basic flow of govt matters again surfaces.

What we see under Repub rule is this is always questioned, and the pres is willing to press the point, because philosophically, his team doesn't presume that the system should work.
This leaves Dems in the difficult position of being the ones who decide to be adults about it or not.

We can only achieve an actual pullout in Iraq in a bipartisan fashion; only a sane pullout will happen.
Because of the sorts of potential costs and risks involved, it must be a national consensus, not just among the people, but among a reasonably bipartisan collection of elected officials as well.
Pressure exerted to achieve this is good and must continue and increase.

If the American people want it to end or wind down, one way or another it will.
But though pressure is placed, we can't turn against the proper function of govt, which includes funding the troops and dealing with the reality such as it exists today, on the ground.

The high ground is better, because in the end, when you win, even if it takes longer, what wins is a mature approach to strategy and foreign policy, a more effective and realistic approach.
That's what will actually save lives and produce real, positive outcomes that are unchallengeable.

Struggles for freedom and for a saner path always take a long time, in every nation.

We have to be about bringing everyone along, Repubs also, keeping it real and also realistic.

Posted by: Jim on May 24, 2007 at 9:17 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, there's no reason for us to stay. There's no pony to be had there. And our going will make things better. Look, with us there, everybody can hope we'll plump down on their side -- one moment it's all the 80% solution, the next we're acting with Sunnis, the Kurds know we're on their side. But only when we're gone, or at least going, will they realize that they've got to reach accomodation. And then a solution will come and things will come down. But only then.

It is fair to say there will be bloodshed when we go. There's bloodshed now, after all. But the way to have it end eventually is to leave.

Posted by: David in NY on May 24, 2007 at 9:20 PM | PERMALINK

There was a lot of robbing Peter to pay Paul going on in the military to cover the near term bill for Iraq. I think the Dems rightly decided this was not the hill to die on and it was better to get defense's house set to right.

Come next year, however, right in the middle of the primaries and after the report on the surge is in, we'll see how this lame duck quacks.

Posted by: clevergirl on May 24, 2007 at 9:26 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin - I think you are not sufficiently focused on the fact that there are three desirable ends here. One is to flog the GOP with this war - lets discard that one for this discussion thought it certainly has an influence.

Two is being right on the issue. And, indeed, the polls should make the Ds brave on this point.

Three is getting us out of Iraq.

But, being right on the issue and getting us out of Iraq likely call for different tactical decisions. In order to force a withdrawal (short of the next election) Democrats are going to need Republican votes. I suspect that not creating the crisis right now increases the likelihood of getting those votes as time passes.

The Democrats have the option of not passing the supplemental and getting into a stand-off with the President. The Prez leaves the forces in Iraq, tells the Pentagon to stop sending bullets and blames the Democrats. If you polled the public on whether they would fund in that situation, it would not, IMHO look so fine. If you don't have the stomach for this kind of stand-off, better not to get into it at all. My guess is the D leadership counted noses and decided that they would have too many defections.

If they are choosing a course aimed at getting out as early as can be, as opposed to being right or being politically brilliant, I am with them.

Is that what is going on? Maybe. I can't tell. Can you?

Posted by: ursus on May 24, 2007 at 9:42 PM | PERMALINK

There was a lot of robbing Peter to pay Paul going on in the military to cover the near term bill for Iraq.

Bullshit

Posted by: antiphone on May 24, 2007 at 9:43 PM | PERMALINK

However, I suspect it depends on Democrats making a positive case for withdrawal. Not just that the war is unwinnable, or that it's costing too many lives — both of which seem merely defeatist to a lot of people — but that America will be actively better off by getting out of Iraq.

Yes! The Democrats need to get off the message of "we lost, we need to get our troops out" and get on message of "to succeed, we need to get our troops out".

Posted by: Oberon on May 24, 2007 at 9:49 PM | PERMALINK

I think this blind reliance on the polls is very dangerous. The American public is unhappy with losing the war. But don't count on that anger being a foundation for the Democrats forcing a pulling of the plug. You can do the right thing, and still be the ones who get blamed.

So, Kevin, I think you have it exactly wrong. You say the Democrats should make a *positive* case for withdrawal. No, the Democrats should make a bitter, angry case for withdrawal. And they should make the public bitter and angry as well. But not at Bush -- he's just a roadblock, not a real actor -- but at someone we can all get behind to really hate and resent.

The Democrats should attack the government of Iraq. The government that takes two month summer vacations in posh foreign resorts while our boys and girls are sweating and dying over there. The squabbling, feckless bunch of buffoons that can't pass the simplest piece of legislation. The pack of corrupt thiefs who rip off our money and that of the Iraqi people to feather their own nests. The murderous political gangs who have let death squad militias infiltrate the ministries.

We won't put up with it anymore. We can't ask any brave American soldier to be the last one to die for this criminal bunch of parasites.

We lost this round. It's the third quarter and suddenly we're down five points. But in the fourth quarter, we pound this message home again and again and again so that when September comes, it doesn't matter what Petraeus or Bush say about how well the troops are doing. We know they're doing a great job. They're heroes. And we gave them the money to do the job. But by September, by the end of the fourth quarter when crunch time comes, we *must* have won the debate for framing the question: why are we giving up blood and treasure to fight for this despicable Iraqi government?

We have paid the butcher's bill long enough. We gave the Iraqis a huge blank check and they squandered it. We will withdraw because the Iraqi government betrayed us. They are the enemy. And the American people must understand that.

Posted by: santamonicamr on May 24, 2007 at 9:52 PM | PERMALINK

If they are choosing a course aimed at getting out as early as can be, as opposed to being right or being politically brilliant, I am with them.

No, that’s not what’s going on.

Posted by: antiphone on May 24, 2007 at 9:53 PM | PERMALINK

"... why Democrats backed down so quickly...

Phone calls were made. The money has spoken and will be obeyed.

Posted by: Buford on May 24, 2007 at 9:59 PM | PERMALINK

There was no de-funding in the bill. There was a non-binding timeline for withdrawal. The Dem leadership wouldn’t even stand firm on a suggested date for redeployment. Those are the basic facts.

Posted by: antiphone on May 24, 2007 at 10:00 PM | PERMALINK

c) they're trying to spin it as some sort of real change, some sort of victory, when everyone knows that it's not.

It's like the "victory" the Dems won a few years ago when they saved the rule allowing fillibusters by agreeing not to use it.

Posted by: Nemo on May 24, 2007 at 10:12 PM | PERMALINK

Besides, if the Dems vote to stop funding, they will be blamed by the Republican fakers for the failure of the war. That would be a drag indeed.

Oh my goodness.

Posted by: antiphone on May 24, 2007 at 10:12 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, you need to move out of Orange County -- seriously,

This vote had nothing, nothing to do with Iraq.

This vote had everything to do with good old fashioned politics.

Pelosi and Reid traded the Iraq War issue for a few trinkets: minimum wage, more money for N.O., etc.

Old time politicians know the exercise.

But Bush isn't an old time politician: he's an idiot, and you can not negotiate with idiots -- they are too stupid to understand what the fuck you are doing.

This is how I see it playing out . . .

Pelosi goes into see Bush and says "we need a timetable to leave Iraq". Bush responds "my navel has lint in it".

Pelosi shakes her head and says "Mr. President, America wants to know when we are leaving Iraq". Bush responds "I think I need to pee now".

Pelosi leaves the meeting shaking her head and meets Rove in the hallway. "God, he's a tough guy. I got nowhere with him."

Rove smiles and responds "tell you what. Pass a war supplement with no strings attached and we'll let you have your minimum wage bill."

Pelosi smiles and leaves. Later she meets Harry Reid in the hallways of the Congress. "How did it go, chick" asks Reid, pinching her bottom.

"I got us a good deal", Pelosi responds.

And this is how legislation is done in 2007.

Posted by: Dicksknee on May 24, 2007 at 10:17 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks for the breath of fresh air, Kevin. Nice post.

Posted by: mk on May 24, 2007 at 10:18 PM | PERMALINK

The political calculus of who get the blame for the ultimated disaster in Iraq has many layers, at least one of which is almost too distressing to discuss. That is: What happens when we're attacked again? Anyone who has thought seriously about it knows that it will happen - maybe tomorrow, maybe in 5 years, but it will happen. And most likely it will make 911 look like a warm-up act.

The Cons are saying that Iraq is the central war on terrorism, and if we "surrender" the terrorists will bring to war to us. They know (or should know) that that will happen whether or not we're on Iraq. Tenent said as much in his book. So their strategy is (or should be) to lure the Dems into a situation where they take the blame when it happens.

The Dem's quandary is that if they force a withdrawal without substantial Republican backing, they will get all the blame for the next attack (no matter how illogical that is), and if the attack is is bad as most analysts fear, it could destroy the Democratic party.

This is pretty heavy stuff.

And good reason for the Dems to proceed with caution.

aa

Posted by: aaron aardvark on May 24, 2007 at 10:19 PM | PERMALINK

I'm really looking forward to all the Democrats in conservative districts who voted in favor of the supplemental telling reporters what they heard from their constituents during the recess. Seriously. If they think they're doing exactly what their districts want them to do, so be it. But I'd like to hear explicit examples rather than taking their word for it.

Posted by: Patience on May 24, 2007 at 10:21 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, let me go a step further however. You said we liberals have not been fully honest about the bloodshed when we leave. True.

It's a reminder that we should be learning another lesson from Iraq: the importance of being upfront about the consequences of our actions.

Bush et. al misled us about what the war really meant (at least a decade of sustained military force). They probably misled themselves. And the direct consequence of that was less-robust public support: the American public was wholly unprepared for how much the occupation sucked, how much time it took.

In Bush's case, if they'd been straightforward it is unlikely the public would have been on board (but that's an academic question). In our case, if we force withdrawal without honestly coming to grips with what withdrawal means (Bush is not entirely wrong, it will be bloody and ugly), the public may turn on us.

Kevin basically already said all this, but I'm just saying we should learn the practical importance of truth telling-- it leads to more robust support.

So, let's start being more upfront about what withdrawal will look like, then.

Posted by: mk on May 24, 2007 at 10:26 PM | PERMALINK

Drum: If you display conviction, the public will follow. Maybe next time around Dems will finally figure this out.

First, you say the public will favor the side they agree with; then you say the public will follow, sheeplike, whoever shows the most "conviction." I assume there's some kind of logic here that a better mind than mine sees, and I'm just missing it.


Bush and the Republicans have shown lots of "conviction" on Iraq, and it cost them Congress. Clinton showed "conviction" over healthcare and other liberal issues, and it cost the Dems Congress in '94. People who talk about how "conviction" wins elections always seem to forget to list the elections it has won. Here's your chance to prove the exception, Kevin.

Posted by: Martin Gale on May 24, 2007 at 10:35 PM | PERMALINK

The Dem's quandary is that if they force a withdrawal without substantial Republican backing, they will get all the blame for the next attack (no matter how illogical that is),

By all means, let’s not try to think rationally. That would be naïve, much better to listen to the paranoid fantasies of concern trolls.

Posted by: antiphone on May 24, 2007 at 10:40 PM | PERMALINK

The Dem's quandary is that if they force a withdrawal without substantial Republican backing, they will get all the blame for the next attack (no matter how illogical that is),

By all means, let’s not try to think rationally. That would be naïve, much better to listen to the paranoid fantasies of concern trolls.

Posted by: antiphone on May 24, 2007 at 10:40 PM | PERMALINK

If we do "force" a withdrawal, Bush is still the "commander guy". We would be forcing him to do something he does not want to do. What guarantee do we have that Bush wouldn't screw that up worse than his current Iraq policy? If Dems cut off the funds, what guarantee do we have that Bush would really withdraw our troops and instead leave them where they are to play a game of chicken with Congress?

Posted by: bakho on May 24, 2007 at 11:13 PM | PERMALINK

"If you display conviction, the public will follow. Maybe next time around Dems will finally figure this out."
Well let me check my polling data and see what it says about that. That is the Dems biggest problem - they have the best pollsters and they take positions on what the polls say - not what their core convictions are. You can talk all you want to about Republicans this and that but the fact of the matter is that, for the most part, they continue to support an unpopular war and president and will become unemployed because they have stood on their convictions. People are dying in Iraq. You can agree or disagree with the situation but stop playing politics with it. No matter what you do with the war, Dems will get blamed by Repubs for the next terrorist attack and any chaos in Iraq. If you can't get the votes for timetables, have some conviction and don't pass any funding. That will stop the war. Get some cojones already. Republicans, while misguided perhaps, at least stand for something. What do Democrats stand for?

Posted by: Dave! on May 24, 2007 at 11:15 PM | PERMALINK

"...we liberals have been less than totally candid about acknowledging the almost certain chaos and bloodshed that will follow an American departure."

Yes, it's going to be very nasty. That's why this Pandora's Box should never have been opened in the first place. But the "certain chaos and bloodshed" will happen whether we withdraw now or five years from now. That was pre-ordained when the president decided to start this fool's war.

Posted by: Rick Rettberg on May 24, 2007 at 11:19 PM | PERMALINK

I appreciate (and share) the frustrations of many of the posters in this thread. The majority of Americans want out of Iraq, but dont agree on why or how. No one has developed a narrative for that. Although polls tell you what ideas people are receptive to, it takes leadership to develop a narrative that links the ideas together. When the Dems have a real showdown, they need this narrative. They need ideas that the MSM can repeat in their 24/7 talk shows. Much as I regret our continued presence in Iraq, I dont think the anti-war case has been made in a positive way, or even as the least bad of the available options. GWB keeps spouting his fantasies about fighting Al Queda in Iraq, and the MSM havent called him on it.

Posted by: troglodyte on May 24, 2007 at 11:30 PM | PERMALINK

I admit that's a tough case to make...

Well, no. Actually it is not.

Posted by: bobbyp on May 24, 2007 at 11:31 PM | PERMALINK

By all means, let’s not try to think rationally. That would be naïve, much better to listen to the paranoid fantasies of concern trolls.

antiphone, I'm not sure what point you're trying to make here. Are you saying that rational discourse drives public opinion? If so, you haven't been paying attention for the last 20+ years.

If you think that the administration policies are working and we won't be attacked again, you've swallowed the Neocon's talking points, hook, line, and sinker.

And that concern troll crack was uncalled for.

aa

Posted by: aaron aardvark on May 24, 2007 at 11:36 PM | PERMALINK

I cannot say it as well as Mr. Drum without exhibiting hostile bitterness or insulting someone or some faction.

Posted by: Brojo on May 24, 2007 at 11:44 PM | PERMALINK

When Dem politicians don't vote based on their convictions, they generally end up losing big time. John Kerry voted for AUMF-Iraq in 2002 against his better judgement making it easier to paint him as a flip-flopper in the 2004 campaign. Now too many of the centrist Dems are afraid to take a brave stand against this Iraq War when they should vote their consciences and let the chips fall where they will. In their hearts they must know that this war was always about Bush's hubris. Remaining in this war meets the very definition of insanity and futility.

Posted by: ugly_duck on May 24, 2007 at 11:48 PM | PERMALINK

The Democrats once again proved -- to nobody's surprise -- they are a worthless opposition party. And the landslide they see unfolding in 2008 might have a very different outcome should a progressive and openly anti-war third party candidate emerge under the rubric of 'independent.'

Gravel/Paul in 08?

Posted by: smedleybutler on May 24, 2007 at 11:52 PM | PERMALINK

In the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi tried to attach an item exempting American Samoa from the federal minimum wage. A tuna packing company in which she has an interest operates in American Samoa. Presumably, had this language been included in the final bill, she would have voted for it. Unless she was trying to get that in as a poison pill.

This is kind of a cavalier attitude.

The Senate vote was 80-14, slightly higher than the original vote to authorize the military action in the first place, despite the Democratic Senate gains in 2006. That's remarkable.

I think the answer is obvious: the Democrats are not in fact confident that they are right.


bleh: And whom are the Democrats "losing," by delaying? The most liberal, anti-war parts of the party? Are they going to desert the Democrats? Ridiculous.

Why ridiculous? The Nader vote cost Gore FL and the election in 2000.

Posted by: MatthewRmarler on May 24, 2007 at 11:55 PM | PERMALINK

aaron aardvark - I think antiphone's point is that no matter what Dems do, we've already been branded as the reason the war was lost by Republicans, even as they insist that the war hasn't been lost yet in the same breath.

No matter what we do, they will hang this around our neck. So why worry about what the hell they're going to do to us if we try to stand firm on something, when whatever they threaten to do, they'll do anyways?

This is what people are pissed about. Dems backed down on this issue because they were worried about the White House criticizing them. So what happens after they back down? Bush blasts them anyways in a public address.

We're damned if we do, damned if we don't. So why choose the 'don't'?

Posted by: Kryptik on May 24, 2007 at 11:57 PM | PERMALINK

America will be actively better off by getting out of Iraq.

Is that something that a majority of Democrats care about?

How many Democrats think that a secure fuel supply in time of war would be something worth investing in so as to increase American military power?

Not many here; not many anywhere, I'd bet.

Same with the idea that getting out of Iraq is good for America. That isn't an argument that appeals to the left half of the party, where the strongest desire to get out can be found.

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on May 25, 2007 at 12:01 AM | PERMALINK

I'm not sure what point you're trying to make here. aaron aardvark

Your political calculus is composed of assumptions about what might happen in the future and how the public would react. You treat these assumptions as though they were facts. In doing so you echo the fear based rational the Republicans have employed to terrorize our political discourse. You're making the case for a passive role for Democrats where avoiding blame is more important that taking responsibility. If you think this will keep the hands of Democratic Party clean you’re mistaken, the party has a cowardice problem. They have a majority in congress and the polls support taking action. It’s not credible to keep making lame excuses for inaction.

Posted by: antiphone on May 25, 2007 at 12:10 AM | PERMALINK

aaaaaaahhhhhhhhh.... Kevin finally comes clean.

It's Democrat partisan political gain on the one hand, and tens or hundreds of thousands of deaths on the other.

The absolutely fucking AMAZING thing about this is that in Kevin's mind, this is a line-ball decision!

What sort of a person.... ?


?

Posted by: am on May 25, 2007 at 12:13 AM | PERMALINK

One reason the Dems failed to sustain a pullout schedule is that Bush had already given a kind-of schedule, namely the fall report from General Petraeus that he promised. I believe that if Petraeus gives a negative evaluation, that will be the end of American participation in Iraq.

Also, Bush has a strong argument. We have a new Sec'y of Defense, a new top General in Iraq, and a new strategy. We should give them all a chance.

Posted by: ex-liberal on May 25, 2007 at 12:14 AM | PERMALINK

the Democrats are not in fact confident that they are right.

There is your neo-con talking point to continue the war.

Posted by: Brojo on May 25, 2007 at 12:16 AM | PERMALINK

Keith Olbermann is right. Our government has failed. Bush is a war criminal; Pelosi and Reid are not looking good. The idea of benchmarks is a joke- Bush will gladly certify any benchmark that you want. Our Constitution is irrelevant to the world of advertising and the military-industrial-Congressional complex. Chalmers Johnson has the right analysis. I hope that others will join me in sending nasty letters to the Democratic leadership.

Four Democratic candidates seem to be showing some courage- Dodd, Edwards, Gravel & Kucinich. I will vote for a third party candidate if we get a waffler from the Dems and a war-loving macho lunatic who doesn't believe in evolution from the Republicans.

Posted by: anciano on May 25, 2007 at 12:19 AM | PERMALINK

Dicksknee makes the point really well. Politics as usual, but of course the Democrats are better than the Republicans. We should support them whatever they do and if they betray the public interest it doesn't matter because they are *different* from the Republicans. Republicans bad, Democrats good. So let them play politics so long as they win in 2008. Then, when we have a Democrat president, everything will be all right. Immigrants won't be exploited, racism will end, sweatshops will cease to exist, there will be no more poverty, and Michael Moore will be out of a job. In the meantime if a few hundred more US troops and several tens of thousands more of those "other people" die in brutal violence, well, we all know that collateral damage cannot be avoided.

Posted by: RS on May 25, 2007 at 12:29 AM | PERMALINK

Kryptik, of course the Cons will try to pin the loss of the Iraq fiasco on the Dems, but that's not the point. When the war finally ends (badly) the Dems rightfully will get the blame for not ending the war soon enough, but that's a different issue. All it means is the Dems are weak, but everyone already knows that so it's not that much of a political hit.

If (when) al Qaeda strikes again, the game changes. It's like hitting the political reset button. Unlike after 911, heads will roll big time. The public will not accept another "no one could have foreseen" argument. And when that happens the SCLM will take the side of the Cons as they always do when the going gets tough. If the Dems act unilaterally, they get all the blame. It's completely unfair, but fair has nothing to do with politics. The country needs to get to the point where the Cons' credibility is totally and irreversibly destroyed - where even the 30 percenters no longer buy the fiction. Sadly, we're not there yet.

So while I think the morally right thing to do is to end the war as quickly as humanly possible, the political risk to the Dems for doing it unilaterally is enormous when we're attacked again. They need more political cover than they currently have. It's a brutally sad calculus that will cost countless more lives.

aa

Posted by: aaron aardvark on May 25, 2007 at 12:34 AM | PERMALINK

Um, no, the election wasn't primarily about corruption and the House leadership turning a blind eye to Republican pedofiles, that was all ancillary. Again, Iraq was the #1 issue.

Why do we continue to internalize Republican bullshit?

If you look at the exit polls--the survey of people who actually voted--Iraq was fourth on the list.

The Democrats won on "macaca," dirty chats, DeLay's removal, and Abramoff.

Internalize that.

Posted by: rnc on May 25, 2007 at 12:37 AM | PERMALINK

You are absolutely correct, Kevin.

Thanks for saying what I've been too pissed off to say coherantly.

Posted by: Disputo on May 25, 2007 at 12:43 AM | PERMALINK

The Democratic Congress: rubber stamp with violent finger waving?

Posted by: Orson on May 25, 2007 at 12:47 AM | PERMALINK

As much as I despise the Dems actions, they are probably correct.

The troops are staying in Iraq as long as Herr Bush is in office, period.

The measures the Dems will have to take to overrule Bush will not be pretty and the public is not THAT interested, I don't care what the polls say. The military is volunteer and nobody's taxes have been raised; the public's pain level is too low. What the public doesn't like is losing and they have finally come to the inevitable conclusion that this war is a LOSER; no way out. Nobody wants to be reminded every day they backed a loser and that is what Iraq has become.

The Dems followed through on their promise; they sent a bill to Buttboy requiring withdrawal, he vetoed and refused to compromise. Everybody knows what happened and everybody knows that Congress doesn't have the power to overrule the President. This is Bush's folly, the Dems won't be hung with it because the public has already accepted the loss; that was what the 2006 election was about. It IS Bush's loss.

What you all forget is that the press is Republican. The Democrats try anything controversial and the press will crucify them; that is the Bush/Cheney regime's real strength, they control the message. Very tough to politic without a reliable communication outlet.

Yes, it sucks that a bunch of soldiers are going to have to die, but they are on Bush's head, he DOES hold the cards. The troops did volunteer with a Republican President, they knew and took their chances.

The Democrats are letting the stench fester around the Republicans. Don't forget, Bush is still receiving the backing of Republicans in the House and Senate. The longer this cluster goes on, the longer they are tarred with the shame. Losers.

Posted by: TT on May 25, 2007 at 12:52 AM | PERMALINK

If the Dems can't figure it out now, they never will. Or they'll wait until the polls show that 98% of the electorate favors position X -- and then they'll bray about their "leadership".

Didja see the margins on this vote? 80-13 in the Senate!! I hate to say it -- I can't believe I'm saying it -- but it looks like old Ralph Nader was right.

Posted by: sglover on May 25, 2007 at 12:54 AM | PERMALINK

The reason the war continues in Iraq is become we have a major asshole as President who enjoys hurting as many people as he possibly can.

He is the most hated man in the world and every person who becomes a terrorist and attacks our soldiers is doing it, because it is the only way they can attack this sick, sick man.

Only when he is finally out of office will the world, and our country, begin to heal.


Posted by: Uncle Sam on May 25, 2007 at 12:55 AM | PERMALINK

"Maybe next time around Dems will finally figure this out."

Kevin, please. I've been saying that for the entire Bush presidency. The Democrats have never, will never, figure out that conviction matter in politics. I wait, and I wait, and I wait. It's hopeless. I give up.

Not holding your breath for Republicans to admit the war is lost in September? Then I hope you aren't waiting for the Dems to come around. Cause it ain't happening. Ever.

Posted by: EM on May 25, 2007 at 1:01 AM | PERMALINK

Your political calculus is composed of assumptions about what might happen in the future and how the public would react. You treat these assumptions as though they were facts. In doing so you echo the fear based rational the Republicans have employed to terrorize our political discourse.

You're saying that al Qaeds won't strike again? They're already done it twice. What have we done to prevent them from doing it a third time? Are you saying that the Iraq war had made us safer? Have we done anything to prevent another attack? You're not seriously saying that having people take of their shoes at the airport is going to make a difference?

Get real, we've done nothing to stop another attack, and we've done much to encourage it. That's not a "fear based rationale", it's simply accepting reality.

aa

Posted by: aaron aardvark on May 25, 2007 at 1:05 AM | PERMALINK

I will not be wasting any more of my money on the Democratic Party or its candidates for the foreseeable future.

Posted by: flump on May 25, 2007 at 1:10 AM | PERMALINK

And whom are the Democrats "losing," by delaying? The most liberal, anti-war parts of the party? Are they going to desert the Democrats? Ridiculous. Are they going to withdraw and sulk, like the Christian Right used to do? Unlikely -- there's too much blood in the water, and every time Bush shows up on TV, they're back on the warpath.

Wow! I just had the most surreal deja vu experience -- I thought I was in 2002, and Tom Daschle was unveiling his sure-fire "Cheap Drugs for Seniors" strategy!

I keep hearing this smug, cocksure advise from self-proclaimed political gurus, and all I can think is, Do you really want to goad your left wing into following another third party? So far the stars are well-aligned for a Dem sweep in '08. But if you think that's written in stone, you're dreaming.

Posted by: sglover on May 25, 2007 at 1:11 AM | PERMALINK

Get real, for a change.

From now on, it's "the Republican War in Iraq."

And, by the by, the Democrats could stand a bit more support when the chips are down.

Where were the demonstrators in the streets of Washington, D.C.?

You so-called "liberals" sat back in your comfy easy chairs, tapped out a few messages for the blogs, maybe did a bit of text messaging, perhaps sent a few emails -- what an effort.

Of course, by taking to the streets, you would risk smudging your Berlutis, I'll give you that.

So, maybe you can hire an illegal to take your place. I understand some will march for a sandwich and change. No Berlutis to worry about.


Posted by: getreal on May 25, 2007 at 1:14 AM | PERMALINK

Get real, we've done nothing to stop another attack, and we've done much to encourage it. That's not a "fear based rationale", it's simply accepting reality.

No, it’s not reality. It is speculation about a possible future event. One could make a case for it being a likely event but you do not have a crystal ball. You do not know what public reaction to such an event would be either.

Posted by: antiphone on May 25, 2007 at 1:16 AM | PERMALINK

Actually, Democrats (at least some) are playing a very shrewd game with Bush.

If Bush doesn't veto this bill, then tens of millions of low-income Americans will see an increase in their minimum wage, something that has been stalled for over a decade by "culture of greed and corruption" Republicans.

Any increase in the minimum wage means an increase in payroll taxes being collected, which means more money going into Social Security. Therefore, this long-delayed increase in the mininum wage will dramatically improve the health of Social Security...and we all know how much certain Republicans love Social Security.

Will Bush still veto this bill? Or have Democrats worked out a deal with Bush in which they fund Bush's little war (without any deadlines attached) while the minimum wage increase finally gets passed?

It'll be interesting to see what Bush does.

But I have an idea about what the Democrats can do next.

After Memorial Day, they need to write a bill allocating funds for an "escrow" account to cover the expense of our troops redeploying from Iraq sometime in the future. No benchmarks. No timelines. Just money put aside in a "rainy day lockbox" to pay for eventually getting our troops the hell out of Iraq, as efficiently and safely as possible.

To sweeten this "support the troops" bill, Democrats might even add money to it to pay for troop pay raises, including an increase in hazardous duty pay. Our troops deserve it, especially for all the hell Bush and Cheney (and Rumsfeld) have put them through.

Anyway, this one bill (without timelines) would shoot to hell the Republican talking point about Democrats not supporting our troops.

Only someone insane would vote against or veto this bill. Which would definitely put Bush, Cheney and all the chickenhawk Republicans in a difficult position.

In the meantime, Democrats got all that they could get from this Iraqi "operational" funding bill, especially with Bush threatening a veto and with all the turncoat DLC Democrats standing in the way.

Posted by: The Oracle on May 25, 2007 at 1:19 AM | PERMALINK

I think that the real issue in Washington isn't about the war and who will be to blame for losing it- it's about who profits when the war goes on, and how are they making sure that the war goes on? For sure, defense contractors, who have seen profits soar since 2002 (Lockheed Martin, for instance, saw their Pentagon contracts leap from $14.7 billion in 2001 to $21.9 billion in 2003) and oil companies have a vested interest in chaos and unrest in the Middle East and an atmosphere of fear permeating the American voting public. They are equal opportunity bribers, sending PAC contributions to both Republicans and Democrats. Pulling out of Iraq and having the region quiet down would be a severe blow to the merchants of death and oil companies which see their assets in the ground increase in value with every upward ratchet of tension as Cheney & Company rattle their sabers in the Persian Gulf.

Posted by: Reality Bites on May 25, 2007 at 1:28 AM | PERMALINK

When the Authorization to Use Force was passed in 2002, I was incensed about the Democrats inability to offer up meaningful opposition against the march to war. The same political calculus is still being played today. Probably for the same reasons.

We had better be out of Iraq by 2012. I doubt anti-war citizens will be willing to wait until 2016 before coming to the conclusion the Democrats will never find a politically enabling time to force withdraw from Iraq.

Posted by: Brojo on May 25, 2007 at 1:29 AM | PERMALINK

rnc: If you look at the exit polls--the survey of people who actually voted--Iraq was fourth on the list.

rnc is right. The election wasn't a complete mandate to end the war. At best it was only one of the issues that put the Dems in control of congress. The "referendum on the war" is an urban legend.

TT: What you all forget is that the press is Republican. The Democrats try anything controversial and the press will crucify them; that is the Bush/Cheney regime's real strength, they control the message. Very tough to politic without a reliable communication outlet.

TT nails it. The SCLM gives the Cons the high ground in any battle. It's easy to say that the Dems should stand for principle, but principle isn't worth much when your (politically) dead.

The Neocons must be totally, completely discredited and humiliated in the mind of the public in order to save our democratic system. That hasn't happened yet. The country is not yet ready to lay the balme where it belongs - on the Bush and his Neocon handlers and enablers. The Iraq war will eventually end in humiliating defeat. We need to make sure that the Cons get the blame. That's the only way to make the suffering and death that our failed policy has caused is not in vain.

aa

Posted by: aaron aardvark on May 25, 2007 at 1:31 AM | PERMALINK

antiphone: No, it’s not reality. It is speculation about a possible future event. One could make a case for it being a likely event but you do not have a crystal ball. You do not know what public reaction to such an event would be either.

Are you willing to bet the farm on the assumption that al Qaeda (or some other radical Islamic faction) against all logic won't strike again? I think the wisest policy is to take into account the possibility (in my opinion likelihood) that it will happen. To assume that if (when) it does the country will automatically blame the Neocons and through their support to the Dems is simply naive.

It's a Neocon dream come true if the Dems unilaterally end the Iraq war and al Qaeda then launches another major strike. They will claim cause and effect, and as is usual under such circumstances, the voices of reason will be filtered into oblivion by the complicit corporate media. It will give the Neocons the excuse they need to implement the authoritarian police state that they secretly crave.

I'm not claiming to be able to predict the future, but if you don't think this a viable possibility given all that had transpired in the last 20+ years, you're been living under a rock.

aa

Posted by: aaaron aardvark on May 25, 2007 at 1:52 AM | PERMALINK

It's a Neocon dream come true if the Dems unilaterally end the Iraq war and al Qaeda then launches another major strike. They will claim cause and effect, and as is usual under such circumstances, the voices of reason will be filtered into oblivion by the complicit corporate media. It will give the Neocons the excuse they need to implement the authoritarian police state that they secretly crave.

No, here's the neocon dream come true:

Bush leaves office, still "fighting" his war. (That he's doing so incoherently, blindly, stupidly is, of course, irrelevant.) The Dems win in '08, end the occupation (or at least reduce the number of deployed troops, and confine the rest to the permanent bases). Then -- big surprise! -- something uncorks in Southwest Asia, the most unstable and hate-filled part of the globe. It might be Pakistan, it might be Turkey, it might be Iraq itself. Doesn't matter -- in the blinkered view of our oh-so-"informed" citizenry, it'll be the current government's fault. And then we'll get to hear how George W. Bush wouldn't have let this happen -- remember how he fought to keep the lid on things in Iraq?

The war needs to be ended while its instigator is still in the White House.

Posted by: sglover on May 25, 2007 at 2:02 AM | PERMALINK

"As much as I despise the Dems actions, they are probably correct.

The troops are staying in Iraq as long as Herr Bush is in office, period.

The measures the Dems will have to take to overrule Bush will not be pretty and the public is not THAT interested, I don't care what the polls say. The military is volunteer and nobody's taxes have been raised; the public's pain level is too low. What the public doesn't like is losing and they have finally come to the inevitable conclusion that this war is a LOSER; no way out. Nobody wants to be reminded every day they backed a loser and that is what Iraq has become.

The Dems followed through on their promise; they sent a bill to Buttboy requiring withdrawal, he vetoed and refused to compromise. Everybody knows what happened and everybody knows that Congress doesn't have the power to overrule the President. This is Bush's folly, the Dems won't be hung with it because the public has already accepted the loss; that was what the 2006 election was about. It IS Bush's loss.

What you all forget is that the press is Republican. The Democrats try anything controversial and the press will crucify them; that is the Bush/Cheney regime's real strength, they control the message. Very tough to politic without a reliable communication outlet.

Yes, it sucks that a bunch of soldiers are going to have to die, but they are on Bush's head, he DOES hold the cards. The troops did volunteer with a Republican President, they knew and took their chances.

The Democrats are letting the stench fester around the Republicans. Don't forget, Bush is still receiving the backing of Republicans in the House and Senate. The longer this cluster goes on, the longer they are tarred with the shame. Losers."
Posted by: TT on May 25, 2007 at 12:52 AM

Absolutely nailed it with a roofer's nail gun. We don't have draftees fighting this war people. There is NO Cronkite going over the weeks body count that is in the HUNDREDS. That's the ONE crucial thing about this that so many seem to gloss over. There isn't any public pain. We're in a big cardboard box full of insulating foam. Now, when people start LOSING THEIR JOBS because of this mess or their kids or grandkids start getting lifted against their will to go make it happen, then Herr Bush has got some true problem.

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on May 25, 2007 at 2:02 AM | PERMALINK

The Neocons must be totally, completely discredited and humiliated in the mind of the public in order to save our democratic system.

Your thinking is simplistic on this. You have attributed too much importance to personalities and blame. Discrediting the neocons, while a good idea, is not sufficient. The problems we face are not due to a few bad apples and the solution is not to win by playing the game the way they do. A lot of the problems the Democratic party faces are due to short-term thinking. It’s the electorate, the public that has to change and that’s a long-term project but any gains made are long term as well. If we don’t have accountability from the Democratic party just replacing the Rs with Ds is counterproductive.

A strategy that relies on acts of terrorism in order to make political gains is obviously unacceptable. If you can’t understand that you have a problem.

Posted by: antiphone on May 25, 2007 at 2:43 AM | PERMALINK

sglover: No, here's the neocon dream come true . . .

I said a Neocon dream come true, not the Neocon dream come true. Unfortunately, the Neocons have a lot of possible "dream come true" scenarios. But unlike you, I don't blame the American people ("blinkered view of our oh-so-'informed' citizenry"), I blame the corporate media. The media gives the Cons a huge advantage in any debate. Most people aren't like me (or you, apparently) who are political junkies and have time time and inclination to dig through the Internet to find out what's really going on in the world. They have lives to live . . . jobs to do, kids to raise, parents to care for . . . and must depend on what's on the evening news and on the front page of the local newspaper for their information.

The only way to return balance to the political discourse is for the Neocons to be completely and overwhelmingly discredited and humiliated so that the press can no longer credibly provide them. While the Iraq funding bill may turn out to be a mistake, we should at least recognize that any path caries great risk. We may disagree with the Dems who supported the bill (as I do), but we should recognize that the issue isn't drawn in stark black and white.

aa

Posted by: aaron aardvark on May 25, 2007 at 2:43 AM | PERMALINK

http://buchanan.org/blog/?p=769

Why did the Democrats capitulate?

Because they lack the courage of their convictions. Because they fear the consequences if they put their anti-war beliefs into practice. Because they are afraid if they defund the war and force President Bush to withdraw U.S. troops, the calamity he predicts will come to pass and they will be held accountable for losing Iraq and the strategic disaster that might well ensue.

Democrats are an intimidated party. The reasons are historical. They were shredded by Nixon and Joe McCarthy for FDR’s surrenders to Stalin at Tehran and Yalta, for losing China to Mao’s hordes, for the “no-win war” in Korea, for being “soft on communism.”

The best and the brightest – JFK’s New Frontiersmen – were held responsible for plunging us into Vietnam and proving incapable of winning the war. A Democratic Congress cut off aid to Saigon in 1975, ceding Southeast Asia to Hanoi and bringing on the genocide of Pol Pot.

Democrats know they are distrusted on national security. They fear that if they defund this war and bring on a Saigon ending in the Green Zone, it will be a generation before they are trusted with national power. And power is what the party is all about.

Posted by: molly on May 25, 2007 at 2:58 AM | PERMALINK

>Time for a strong Independent Party.

Really? You have one in your attic or sitting in your backyard? It was the sort of "reasoning" that helped give us Bush and the Iraq War in the first place. The Dems are very far from perfect-but progress in America will be made through them, or not at all. To believe otherwise is to indulge in fantasy. And matters are too serious for that sort of wishful thinking.

Posted by: tdraicer on May 25, 2007 at 3:06 AM | PERMALINK

mrm: the Democrats are not in fact confident that they are right.

Brojo: There is your neo-con talking point to continue the war.

I don't think that is an argument in favor of continuing the war; it is a guess as to why the Democrats did not try to force a withdrawal.

Dicksknee noted the logrolling: the Dems got an increase in the minimum wage and increased funding for NO and some other projects. For Murtha, defunding the war might have reduced the flow of money to the defense contractors in his district, those that employ his brother. Maybe for him, and for other representatives with defense contractors in their districts, considerations like this led them to support the bill. This is a vaguely "Nader-like" explanation.

Another note: Sen Clinton and Sen Obama voted against the measure. If things go badly in the next two months, they'll be able to say in February that they did the right thing.

Everybody knows that I support the surge. I also voted for Sen Feinstein, who has been fairly steadfastly against the war (in my semi-annual letters, I have explained to her why I think she's wrong, but it isn't anything she doesn't know). I thought the Dems' best strategy really was what I'll call the "Biden strategy": to keep sending him the same bill over and over until he signed it or ran out of funds for the war. It certainly made no sense for Biden to threaten that strategy and then give it up.

Like Kevin, I am puzzled by their strategy on this one.

Posted by: MatthewRmarler on May 25, 2007 at 3:11 AM | PERMALINK

antiphone: Your thinking is simplistic on this. You have attributed too much importance to personalities and blame. Discrediting the neocons, while a good idea, is not sufficient.

You're right, discrediting the Neocons isn't sufficient, but it is necessary. Until the Necons are destroyed our democracy is at risk. They don't believe in the democratic system or the rule of law. They are willing do to anything to gain and maintain power. The current administration has demonstrated that in more ways than I could possibly list.

A lot of the problems the Democratic party faces are due to short-term thinking.

Is the Iraq funding vote based short term thinking? I think it's possible to argue otherwise, as I have done. I don't know if I'm right, but I don't think you can prove me wrong.

A strategy that relies on acts of terrorism in order to make political gains is obviously unacceptable. If you can’t understand that you have a problem.

Where have I implied that? In fact, I stated that its the Cons who will take advantage of another attract to discredit the Dems if we give them the ammunition. Haven't the said over and over again that if Democrats are elected we will be attacked again?

aa

Posted by: aaron aardvark on May 25, 2007 at 3:42 AM | PERMALINK

"If you display conviction, the public will follow. Maybe next time around Dems will finally figure this out."

Next time around, if the war is still going badly, they will likely have a lot of Republicans with them. So then they will have the votes, too. Sounds like our system is working just fine.

Posted by: peanut on May 25, 2007 at 7:30 AM | PERMALINK

If you display conviction, the public will follow. Maybe next time around Dems will finally figure this out.

Bwah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah!

[I don't have much to say, so I'll just respond by laughing maniacally. Beautiful weather here in the Northeast. Think I'll fire up the grill and have some Republican Victory steaks for lunch.]

Posted by: Norman Rogers on May 25, 2007 at 8:55 AM | PERMALINK

Slow night, eh, Normie? Hmmm, Orioles lost and the Twins did not play. Schade.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on May 25, 2007 at 9:29 AM | PERMALINK

But unlike you, I don't blame the American people ("blinkered view of our oh-so-'informed' citizenry"), I blame the corporate media. The media gives the Cons a huge advantage in any debate. Most people aren't like me (or you, apparently) who are political junkies and have time time and inclination to dig through the Internet to find out what's really going on in the world. They have lives to live . . . jobs to do, kids to raise, parents to care for . . . and must depend on what's on the evening news and on the front page of the local newspaper for their information.

I realize that, but at the same time, one of the most dismaying things about this war has always been that it began at a time when information of all kinds has never been easier to obtain. Bush and his dupes are more nakedly authoritarian every month, but the fact is that they can't impose some kind of Kremlin-style information control.

I think this war is only the most glaring symptom of profound institutional failures. And this Democratic sell-out (sorry, I know you disagree, but I can't think of it any other way) is only the latest symptom of the rot. The quaint old notion of "checks and balances" is now about as relevant as weregeld. Same thing goes for the comforting fantasy that the United States is a republic, where the rule of law holds sway.

Posted by: sglover on May 25, 2007 at 11:36 AM | PERMALINK
Everybody knows that I support the surge… MatthewRmarler at 3:11 AM
No, what you support are more needless deaths and more wasted money for Bush's counter-productive war. In fact, since the main result of your war is to increase terrorism throughout the world, you can honestly claim to support terrorism youself.
Republican Victory steaks for lunch. Norman Rogers at 8:55 AM
Top it off with a glass of Victory gin and a Victory cigarette. Posted by: Mike on May 25, 2007 at 12:44 PM | PERMALINK

While I happen to believe rather strongly that our presence over there is just making things worth, the Dem leadership need to internalize one simple fact - they won't be blamed for any resulting bloodbath because American's won't care if Arabs are killing other Arabs.

Prove me wrong.

Posted by: Brautigan on May 25, 2007 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK
Another note: Sen Clinton and Sen Obama voted against the measure. If things go badly in the next two months, they'll be able to say in February that they did the right thing.

If things go badly in the next two months, the Democratic candidates who took a firm stand against the bill before it came to a vote will no doubt point to Clinton and Obama's failure to take a stand before the vote, and the fact that they waited to vote until after they knew the measure had the votes to pass, to point out that they, in fact, did nothing.

And who is that "right thing" argument supposed to help them against in February, anyway? Joe Biden?


Posted by: cmdicely on May 25, 2007 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

That was supposed to be "worse", not "worth".

Apparently, my keyboard has a lisp.

Posted by: Brautigan on May 25, 2007 at 1:05 PM | PERMALINK

Just how many "next time around"s do you think we'll need to get it right? to get it done? How many "next times" will we get? We're running out of time and everything else.

Posted by: jMe on May 25, 2007 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

"Apparently they'd rather fight next year's election with an unpopular Republican war in the background rather than take the chance of fighting it with an unpopular Democratic withdrawal in the background."

Good politics, actually a bit of realpolitik.

But mostly, a lot of Democrats supported this fiasco. They believe in it, and therefore they have to believe it's winable.

Posted by: zak822 on May 25, 2007 at 5:04 PM | PERMALINK

They aren't into realpolitik, they are just clueless. Can you please explain why a Congress elected on opposition to the war is now financially supporting it? Why the party of the middle class is not having extensive hearing on nearly $4 a gallon gas or hearings on the housing bust, the coming food shortage and a host of other issues the public actually cares about. If they don't cut the bull (ie giving illegal aliens a Path to Citizenship), they are going to go down.

Posted by: aline on May 25, 2007 at 9:15 PM | PERMALINK

It's funny that you say "they're the ones who would get the blame." rather than "they're the ones who would DESERVE the blame".

Even in teh latest horribly biased CBS/NYT poll, teh vast majority of Americans don't want to cut off funding.

The MSM is misrepresenting the mass's position. They do not want withdrawal. They are angry that it's been such a mess, with no end in sight. And now a little mroe than half believe that it wasn't worth it. OK, fine. But that's a far cry from pretending that the Democrats have a mandate to bring it to an immediate halt. The proof? If most Americans really did want that, then why woudl the Dems be afraid of the political price? They woudl be seen as heros, doing teh will of the people.

All teh Harry Reid rhetoric wont' change the fact that Americans do not want the plug pulled. They want to WIN.

Posted by: slick on May 26, 2007 at 6:05 AM | PERMALINK

It's funny that you say "they're the ones who would get the blame." rather than "they're the ones who would DESERVE the blame".

Even in teh latest horribly biased CBS/NYT poll, teh vast majority of Americans don't want to cut off funding.

The MSM is misrepresenting the mass's position. They do not want withdrawal. They are angry that it's been such a mess, with no end in sight. And now a little mroe than half believe that it wasn't worth it. OK, fine. But that's a far cry from pretending that the Democrats have a mandate to bring it to an immediate halt. The proof? If most Americans really did want that, then why woudl the Dems be afraid of the political price? They woudl be seen as heros, doing teh will of the people.

All teh Harry Reid rhetoric wont' change the fact that Americans do not want the plug pulled. They want to WIN. Of course, teh problem with that is that the US won this war a long time ago, in a very decisive way. But then, for a reason I cannot understand, decided that somehow pacifying the barbaric murderers in Iraq was the measure of victory. That my friends, is impossible.

Bringing the troops home is NOT a loss. How could it be? Saddam and his sons and his regime are no more. Many Al Quaeda leaders and members have been killed. The Iraquis held their first elections. Passed a constitution. Have a somewhat functioning government. How is this a loss?

It's also revealed to what extent the domestic enemy, i.e. the left, will go in order to blame America first and sabotage most attempts at confronting the enemy.

Posted by: slick on May 26, 2007 at 6:10 AM | PERMALINK

"The MSM is misrepresenting the mass's position. They do not want withdrawal."

Actually, they quite clearly do.

"All teh Harry Reid rhetoric wont' change the fact that Americans do not want the plug pulled."

And again, they quite clearly do.

"They want to WIN."

Sure, and I want to win ten million dollars.

"Bringing the troops home is NOT a loss."

Well, that's kind of what we've been saying for a couple of years now. You might want to go have a word with George W. Bush, since he doesn't seem to be getting the message.

"It's also revealed to what extent the domestic enemy, i.e. the left, will go in order to blame America first and sabotage most attempts at confronting the enemy."

ROFL... No comment needed.

Posted by: PaulB on May 26, 2007 at 11:23 AM | PERMALINK

Yes, there will be almost certain chaos and bloodshed following American withdrawal, but it seems to me our responsibility for that comes more from being the hapless fools to blow the lid on a pressure cooker that, without Saddam Hussein holding it down with an iron grip, was destined to blow. Do I care if Iraqis kill Iraqis? Yes. Do I care more about the cost of this war to the peace and prosperity of America? Hell, yes!

Posted by: Sharon Dymond on May 26, 2007 at 3:40 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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