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Tilting at Windmills

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June 5, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

ENDING THE WAR....Earlier this morning, writing about the next chapter in the showdown over war funding, I said: "My guess is that maybe 20% of congressional Republicans will join [Democrats] in voting to fund a gradual drawdown when September rolls around. If Democrats are willing to stand their ground and fight, that's probably enough." Armando begs to disagree:

I think that is simply fantasy. Who are these "20% of Republicans?" And even if they exist, what of a Presidential veto Kevin? 20% of Republicans is NOT enough for a veto proof majority. When will folks deal with reality here? the NOT funding after a date certain option is the only way to end the Iraq Debacle.

I was rushed this morning, so let me revise and extend my remarks a bit.

First, the 20% number is obviously just a flyer. My guess is that events in Iraq combined with constituent pressure will end up pushing maybe 10 GOP senators and 40 GOP congressmembers into the anti-war camp. This will likely be a combination of moderates who are on the fence already (think John Warner); temperamental isolationists who are hawkish but were never really that thrilled with the neocon grand plan in the first place (think Jeff Sessions); and folks who simply decide that opposition is the only way they can win reelection next year (think Norm Coleman). Needless to say, though, I could be all wet about this.

Second, my whole point was precisely that even if this happens, it's not enough for a veto-proof majority. That means that Dems have to be prepared to submit variations of the kind of budget resolution Armando and I favor (basically Reid-Feingold) over and over in the face of repeated vetoes, and they have to be prepared to win a fight for public opinion against a president who's going to claim that this amounts to "not supporting the troops." (See here for my take on why Dems can probably win this battle.) There's really no alternative since Democrats aren't likely to ever "have the votes" to end the war if that means having a veto-proof majority. Public opinion is key, not partisan majorities.

Kevin Drum 5:20 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (43)

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Comments

Kevin, why are you even bothering responding to that ass of a corporate lawyer who represents the big against the small in court but who pretends to be a progressive in the blogosphere?

Posted by: Disputo on June 5, 2007 at 5:44 PM | PERMALINK

'Democrats aren't likely to ever "have the votes"...'

yes, we are, in january 09. unfortunately this is 594 days and counting.

Posted by: supersaurus on June 5, 2007 at 5:46 PM | PERMALINK

I guess I'm too stupid to understand this. Doesn't it take affirmative votes to continue the war? Dems have lost popularity because voters don't like "leaders" who shirk responsibility. If Bush vetos funding for the war next time let him figure out how to fund it. All this calculation about getting GOP "buy-in" is silly. People like winners.

Posted by: rk on June 5, 2007 at 5:47 PM | PERMALINK

Bush (or maybe more accurately, Reid and Pelosi) has proved that Congress has no power. No matter what, W gets his way, and people keep dying, billions get wasted, and permanent bases get expanded.

Posted by: Gore/Edwards 08 on June 5, 2007 at 5:54 PM | PERMALINK

I love it. When the system works for things you favor, great. When it doesn't, change the rules. What Kevin doesn't seem to grasp is that the system is working as designed -- there simply is not a majority of elected representatives who currently favor an end to the war. The solution to that under our system is the election process.

Posted by: Pat on June 5, 2007 at 5:57 PM | PERMALINK

We don't need no stinkin' votes. As Dennis Kucinich pointed out in the debate the other night, Congress can simply ignore any future war funding requests. We can't force Bush to accept a bill with a timetable for withdrawal, but there is no need to have a veto proof majority on a bill that never gets sent to the floor of the House or Senate.

Posted by: Nonplussed on June 5, 2007 at 6:02 PM | PERMALINK

If the Democrats are really serious about leaving Iraq why is no one questioning why we are building permanent bases in Iraq or one of the world's biggest embassies - basically a slice of Americana in Mesopatamia. It's a crock of shit all around and in the meanwhile Edwards and Clinton are asking the Lord for guidance. Idiots.

Posted by: leopold on June 5, 2007 at 6:03 PM | PERMALINK

I beg to differ with Pat. The absolutely is a majority of elected representatives who favor an end to the war. Such a majority passed a bill with a timetable for withdrawal just last month. What we don't have is a veto proof majority, which is an entirely different thing.

Posted by: Nonplussed on June 5, 2007 at 6:05 PM | PERMALINK

Congressional GOP'ers are still afraid to vote against the war.

If Democrats are being roasted alive for having previously voted for the resolution, Republicans who flip will be fried two-fold.

Posted by: wishIwuz2 on June 5, 2007 at 6:05 PM | PERMALINK

RK/Nonplussed: Of course. But politically, the whole question is who gets the "blame" for the impasse if Congress keeps passing a withdrawal bill and Bush keeps vetoing it. In 1995 Newt Gingrich got the blame in a similar showdown. My guess is that if Dems actually got tough, it's Bush who would get the blame this time around. But they have to be willing to take a risk.

Pat: That's not right. A majority of reps do favor ending the war, and by September I suspect the majority will be even larger. However, there aren't enough of them with the cojones to fight hard for it. That's what I'm talking about here.

Posted by: Kevin Drum on June 5, 2007 at 6:11 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin,
First, Congress needs to grow a pair, not roll over to have it's belly scratched, and then promptly grab their ankles when Bush says no.

"The problem with you Americans is that you still pretend to live in a functional democracy. You don't, you haven't, and you won't so quit pretending because it's quite pathetic."

Posted by: sheerahkahn on June 5, 2007 at 6:17 PM | PERMALINK

The Democrats knew from the start they didn't have the votes to override a veto. If they just wanted to make a statement with the first resolution, they would done better if they had passed the second one with only a 51-49 margin. The lack of leadership by the Democratic presidential front-runners on this issue doesn't signal well for them, either.

Posted by: Qwerty on June 5, 2007 at 6:31 PM | PERMALINK

My guess is that if Dems actually got tough, it's Bush who would get the blame this time around. But they have to be willing to take a risk.

Absolutely correct.

Posted by: Disputo on June 5, 2007 at 6:31 PM | PERMALINK

And who among the presidential candidates are going to take the risk? -no one. Who can really say the truth that America needs to suffer a humiliating defeat so it is never tempted again to embark on some wild foreign adventure. Can democrats live with that? It appears so. I just find it curious that democrats are fine with the fact that Edwards is confident that the voice he hears in his head during prayer time is really God's. No, really, it's not his own - the lord is speaking to him.

Posted by: leopold on June 5, 2007 at 6:41 PM | PERMALINK

America needs to suffer a humiliating defeat so it is never tempted again to embark on some wild foreign adventure

We already did. Even that didn't work. Do we need to suffer a humiliating defeat every 30 years or so, because we're just too fucking stupid to read history, or even elect someone that has read a book or two if we can't be bothered ourselves?

Posted by: thersites on June 5, 2007 at 6:49 PM | PERMALINK

You're deluding yourself. 20% of Republicans aren't going to cross over and neither will as many Dems as you seem to think will vote against funding if the vote looks like it might be close enough to be veto-proof.

People who think the Dems will stop the war if they get into office in January 2009 are also wrong. If the politicians wanted to stop the war they would have cut funding already and not even propose alternative funding.

Everyone's afraid of what happened to the Republicans after Gingrich. Who cares? The public wants this war to end

Posted by: Basura on June 5, 2007 at 6:49 PM | PERMALINK

Pat, do you really "love it"? The it that so pleases you, try to remember, is the senseless death of young Americans and Iraqi civilians. Oh, but that's just a political technicality, so it's fun, fun, fun, isn't it?

Posted by: Kenji on June 5, 2007 at 6:53 PM | PERMALINK

A veto proof majority is not necessary to defund the war. The President can't produce funding with a veto. Vetoing funding with strings produces no funding, not unrestricted funding.

OTOH, in the event of a showdown, Bush might well decide to sidestep the issue by signing a military funding bill that restricted his options while issuing a signing statement that he viewed the funding restrictions as (advisory/unconstitutional/not fair/rude/perfectly valid but I'm ignoring them anyway/etc.) In that case, a veto proof majority in the Senate is, coincidentally, the margin necessary to be capable of enforcing the restrictions in the law, unless the Congress decides to take the issue to the courts (which is possible with a vote of both Houses, but AFAIK rarely if ever actually done, just noted as an abstract possibility when denying standing to individual members of the House that have attempted to sue the executive to enforce legislative dictates without having the backing of the Congress as an institution for the suit.)

On the third hand, even fighting for what the public clearly wants and losing has a political benefit, because it forces your opponents to go to the wall fighting against the public will, which gives you ammunition to unseat them in the next election.

Posted by: cmdicely on June 5, 2007 at 7:37 PM | PERMALINK

Here's how we can win this debate: REFRAME it. Stop talking about who supports the troops; that's the Republican talking point. Instead Democratic Senators and Congressmen need to go on the attack with every second of airtime they get. Some obvious suggestions.

1. The Republicans lied about this war and the service personnel are at risk for no reason. The ones that died, died for nothing. The Pentagon's own Inspector General recently reported that DOD's Office of Special Plans (Rumsfeld's ersatz intelligence agencey) cherry picked "evidence" that Saddam Hussein had WMD's and somehow helped Al Qaida bomb the World Trade Center, while suppressing contrary evidence. In my book, having soldiers killed for no reason, is traitorous conduct. Start hanging the Republicans for this, NOW!
2. The May 2006 National Intelligence Estimate, the consensus of our 16 intelligence agencies, said that we are LESS safe for having attacked Iraq. Talk this one up too.
3. Last month 145 of the 275 elected members of Iraq's Parliament, signed a petition asking the United States to withdraw our armed forces from Iraq. So, if Bush is so proud of Iraqi voters with their purple fingers, why does he so pointedly ignore their will? Occupying a country whose elected representatives want us to leave is totally un-American. Throw it in Bush's face.

The Republcans have no facts in their favor and the Democrats keep allowing them to to get away with it. No wonder the war continues.

Posted by: Sunlight on June 5, 2007 at 7:43 PM | PERMALINK

Just wanted to point out:
This thread: 19 comments.
Iraqi politics thread: 10 comments.
"Knocked Up" movie thread: 85 comments.

Hm. Maybe you should branch out and add a pop culture section to Washington Monthly.

Posted by: anonymous on June 5, 2007 at 7:47 PM | PERMALINK

No doubt there are some Republicans who are closet liberals (just as there are a few democrats who are closet patriots). But most Republicans are thoughtful legislators who will put the national interest first and keep the troops fighting for democracy in Iraq.

Posted by: Al on June 5, 2007 at 8:02 PM | PERMALINK
Iraqi politics thread: 10 comments.
"Knocked Up" movie thread: 85 comments.
That's because there seems to be a debate about whether or not "Knocked Up" is funny, whereas it is generally agreed that the Iraq situation is not. Posted by: Qwerty on June 5, 2007 at 8:05 PM | PERMALINK

Al: "...most Republicans are thoughtful legislators who will put the national interest first..."

You know, Al, not everything calls for your brand of sarcastic wit.

Posted by: Kenji on June 5, 2007 at 8:13 PM | PERMALINK

wit?

Posted by: Eric Martin on June 5, 2007 at 8:28 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin,
I believe this really boils down to an impeachment fight, so I really doubt the D's will pick up many R's on the upcoming votes.

The only way the war can be stopped is to not pass a funding bill that Bush will sign. So, no funding. Troops must be withdrawn (because their are no funds), but Bush behaves true to his A-hole self and does something stupid, like order pj clad, unequipped reserves into the heart of bad-guy territory, or something brain-dead like that. The only way you stop that from happing (I'm the decider!) is to impeach. The R's will not impeach because then the whole crime family escapade comes crashing down on their heads. Better for the R's to wait it out until the election and suffer their losses (most of the nuts will be back anyways, you live in OC, you know how it is)- and maybe even the Rover will pull a rabbit out of the hat for them, who knows.

Posted by: spiny on June 5, 2007 at 8:30 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin inclrrectly entitled this post Ending the War.

The title should have been Ending US Participation in the War.

Many experts believe that a US troop withdrawal will unfortunately result in expanding the war.

Posted by: ex-liberal on June 5, 2007 at 8:39 PM | PERMALINK

Many experts believe that a US troop withdrawal will unfortunately result in expanding the war.

What's fascinating about that is that most of those so-called "experts" and their slack-jawed followers are the same ones who said that Iraq would be a cakewalk, that we'd be greeted with flowers and candy, that we'd find WMD's, that we'd be out in six months, etc.

In truth, they've shown themselves to have no expertise in this area at all, so they're not worth listening to.

Posted by: tRex on June 5, 2007 at 8:51 PM | PERMALINK

trex, what about war opponents who agree that withdrawing American troops now would lead to disaster in the middle east? Would you believe people like General Zinni, Brent Scowcroft and New York Times reporter John Burns (generally considered tthe best American reporter in Iraq)?

See http://www.opinionjournal.com/editorial/feature.html?id=110010168

Posted by: ex-liberal on June 5, 2007 at 9:26 PM | PERMALINK

Why is this post titled "ending the war" when Kevin knows, and has on multiple occasions conceded that a US withdrawal will worsen the war?

Posted by: am on June 5, 2007 at 9:33 PM | PERMALINK

trex, what about

This thread has seen too many intelligent and erudite comments for me to ruin it arguing with a serial moron.

Posted by: tRex on June 5, 2007 at 9:34 PM | PERMALINK

All of this nuanced, serial legislating to end this illegal occupation of a foreign country would become moot if the Democrats pursued the correct Constitutional remedy - impeachment - with sufficient vigor.

It's no wonder that the public's approval rating of the Democratic Congress is in free fall (alluding to a previous post on Political Animal). If the Democrats can't even bring Articles of Impeachment to a vote against a deeply criminal man like George Bush, who started an illegal war of aggression, when the Republicans almost successfully impeached a Democratic president over lying about his sex life, they look like the biggest fuckin' pussies in history. And that is exactly what they are....

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on June 5, 2007 at 9:41 PM | PERMALINK

Why would the Republicans jump ship. Their current strategy seems to be working just fine for them. See yesterdays poll in the Washington Post.


"Just 39 percent said they approve of the job Congress is doing, down from 44 percent in April, when the new Congress was about 100 days into its term. More significant, approval of congressional Democrats dropped 10 percentage points over that same period, from 54 percent to 44 percent.

Much of that drop was fueled by lower approval ratings of the Democrats in Congress among strong opponents of the war, independents and liberal Democrats."


http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/06/04/AR2007060401230.html

Posted by: NYT on June 5, 2007 at 9:46 PM | PERMALINK

My guess is that if Dems actually got tough, it's Bush who would get the blame this time around. But they have to be willing to take a risk.

One complication that you have not addressed: Several of the Democratic proposals have permitted American soldiers to remain in Iraq for protection of American facilities, for training Iraqi soldiers, and for fighting al Qaeda and related terrorists. Part of the "risk" is that they can't agree on how many should remain, and they end up sounding like "Bush lite". How many Republicans defect from Bush's side and vote with the Democrats will depend on the exact wording of the Democrats' proposal.

Posted by: MatthewRmarler on June 5, 2007 at 10:36 PM | PERMALINK

The guy's on my side, but if I had an nickel for everytime he used that ridiculous "date certain" phrase, well...

Posted by: Xanthippas on June 5, 2007 at 10:37 PM | PERMALINK

Who are these "20% of Republicans?" And even if they exist

Yeah, I do think they do indeed exist, because there are some GOP who could lose their seats, and all Dems need is 60 votes. September is the last staw, the American people are more than fairly passionate about an end to this war, as the polls show. 72% percent is a sunami.

AND it appears that Cheney is trying to push ideas that many senior officials are, frankly, stating to balking at, and I get the feeling, congressional Repugs would like to stop with Cheney's GOP threat machine.

Chenwy supports Cheney, not the GOP - the GOP must have gotten wind of that much evidence.

Posted by: Me_again on June 6, 2007 at 12:48 AM | PERMALINK

and all Dems need is 60 votes.

That's filibuster-proof; veto-proof is 67 votes.

Posted by: Disputo on June 6, 2007 at 1:17 AM | PERMALINK

You're all having a serious debate, and I am stuck savouring the comment, "folks who simply decide that opposition is the only way they can win reelection next year (think Norm Coleman)". Heh, Norm Coleman, the MN senator who makes Mitt Romney seem spontaneous and authentic....years ago, Coleman hitched his star to the Republicans, and, now, how just if his star falls with them.

But on serious matters, I have to agree with ex-liberal that "Many experts believe that a US troop withdrawal will unfortunately result in expanding the war."

The war in Iraq is a total clusterf**k, and we are damned if we do and damned if we don't. It is ugly and will continue to be ugly and is likely to get worse before it gets better, whether or not the US remains there or not. This is what GWB's stupid war has accomplished.

The reason to leave Iraq is because, thanks to George Bush, the US has lost the war there and staying on will not change that fact. The reason to leave is because, having failed to accomplish our goals, we are squandering our resources by pretending that we have a chance of winning there. Leaving gives us a chance to win other victories in the on-going war against global terrorism.

Longterm, we can do more for the world and American security by pouring billions of dollars into achieving alternate energy, providing aid (aka reparations) to Iraq, figuring out how to strengthen the UN, strengthen international intelligence networks and inspire the rest of the world by restoring the decent values that pre-Reagan/Bush Americans used to live by.

Posted by: PTate in FR on June 6, 2007 at 7:29 AM | PERMALINK

> My guess is that events in Iraq combined with
> constituent pressure will end up pushing maybe 10
> GOP senators and 40 GOP congressmembers into the
> anti-war camp.

First, thanks for responding to Armando (who generally doesn't comment here) rather than your regular readers who made the same point. Good handling of your customer base there.

Second, you have now stated twice that this is your opinion. Fine. Why is it your opinion? Since 2003 the Republicans have been talking a teensy tiny bit semi-tough, then backing down when Cheney growls. Why exactly are they going to behave differently in September? Fear of the 2008 elections? The problem is that they are in a lose-lose situation there, and taking up the "hippie left's anti-war chant" is probably their worst alternative.

So what _exactly_ is going to drive that move?

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer on June 6, 2007 at 8:28 AM | PERMALINK

NO,the date certain is not the only way to stop the war. There are the readiness/rotation limit etc. methods, which indirectly constrain forces to be drawn down as for example tour limits expire and etc.

Posted by: !!! on June 6, 2007 at 8:44 AM | PERMALINK

This thread has seen too many intelligent and erudite comments for me to ruin it arguing with a serial moron.

...who once again cites an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, an act of disingenuousness for which he/she/it was allready called on. This repeat can only be seen as a deliberate insult...but then again, that's porbably why "ex-liberal" seems to take such glee in posting here in such bad faith.

Posted by: Gregory on June 6, 2007 at 9:02 AM | PERMALINK

"Public opinion is key, not partisan majorities."

Exactly.

If we put a full court press on Republican reps and senators, two or three letters, emails, faxes a day from different folks, showing up at their townhall meetings, parades, and bbqs this summer, and telling them as voters to get us out of Iraq, calling their offices to set up meetings on it with them, then they'll cave in when the surge fails in the fall.

I wrote some advice about how to pull this off on Kos and TPM recently.

http://www.dailykos.com/comments/2007/5/22/121834/274/878#c878

http://tinyurl.com/2gu2np

We can end this fiasco but it has to come from us, our Dem legislators don't have the clout with Repubs to do it.

Posted by: markg8 on June 6, 2007 at 9:51 AM | PERMALINK

Two good posts from Duncan Black over at Atrios today concerning the anniversary. What anniversary? Why, the 6 month anniversary of the Iraq Study Group Report. The one that Time Magazine said that Bush would "have to" follow.

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer on June 6, 2007 at 10:14 AM | PERMALINK

Yeah, and where's that vote of no confidence against Gonzales?

Are the Dems going to wait until December 2008 to vote on it?

And the current versions that I've seen are pathetically toothless, not even describing what actions cause the lack of confidence.

If the Dems are really serious about pushing Bush and winning public opinion, they need some votes of no confidence on the surge, votes of confidence in our service men and women, resolutions promoting and demanding verifiable benchmarks with timetables for progress in Iraq, and anything else that will show that they are funding the war only begrudgingly because Bush would otherwise leave our troops high and dry, just like he did with the lack of body armor and medical care.

Instead, they are sitting on their cans and doing nothing.

Posted by: anonymous on June 6, 2007 at 10:36 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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