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Tilting at Windmills

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November 14, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

TALK, TALK, TALK....Are Democrats going to force Republicans into a real filibuster if they want to block their latest Iraq withdrawal bill? Majority Whip Dick Durbin throws up a trial balloon here.

Kevin Drum 1:17 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (44)

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I would welcome the opportunity. The Democrats should be eager to explain to the American people why they want to turn Iraq over to AL Qeada, and why they want to make the sacrifices of the military meaningless.

Posted by: Al on November 14, 2007 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

No.

This has been another edition of short answers to stupid questions. Thank you for playing.

Posted by: Teresa on November 14, 2007 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

Psh. That's just Durbin wishing for a pair.

Posted by: Quaker in a Basement on November 14, 2007 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

A: No.

B: "As everyone acknowledges, campaigns plant questions all the time."

Posted by: gussie on November 14, 2007 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK

Short answer, Kevin?

No.

Our stellar leadership will ensure a lack of genuine filibuster, for the sake of 'passing something rather than nothing'.

Posted by: Kryptik on November 14, 2007 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

I guess Democratic candidates could do it the way Bush does, and just not let anyone in the building who isn't an active supporter.

Posted by: anandine on November 14, 2007 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

Oops, wrong thread. Go on about your business. Nothing to see here.

Posted by: anandine on November 14, 2007 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

Problem is, Iraq can, for right now at least, be paid for out of the general DoD appropriations bill, as the story notes.

That's the pork-laden DoD appropriations bill that Reid swapped for Waterboarder Mukasey confirmation.

That's your Senate Majority Leader!

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on November 14, 2007 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

The strategy of forcing the Republicans to vote on the war, over and over again, just ended up making the Democrats look weak.

Politico.com framed it: Democrats 0-40 on the war. (Of course, it was really 1-39, since the Democrats had passed one bill, which Bush vetoed, but the narrative was easy to put out there.)

You can't win, if you don't actually fight, and especially if you can't be seent to actually fight.

The Democrats have an important weapon in the power of the purse. Few seem to fully appreciate that appropriations are compelling. An appropriation, properly drawn, is not just permission to spend money, an appropriation is an imperative to spend money on something specific. The money must be spent, by law, on the thing for which it is appropriated.

So, let the Democrats come back from goals, and actually appropriate $100 billion for withdrawal, and only withdrawal, with no money to continue the war. Draw a line in the sand.

The Defense Bill was loosely enough drawn, that Bush will be able to reprogram enough funds to keep the war going. But, only by gutting a dozen Defense programs near and dear to the military-industrial complex. Let him eviscerate the Pentagon, while Congress just keeps passing the Withdrawal Bill.

Posted by: Bruce Wilder on November 14, 2007 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

But Mitch McConnell runs the Senate and he says it taked 60 votes. Who is Senator Reid to tell him otherwise.

Posted by: freelunch on November 14, 2007 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

No.

They have no balls.

Posted by: Gore/Edwards 08 on November 14, 2007 at 1:56 PM | PERMALINK

"Have I lied to you? I mean, in this room? Trust me."

--GladOS

Posted by: anonymous on November 14, 2007 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

no

Posted by: no on November 14, 2007 at 3:11 PM | PERMALINK

This will give Harry Reid the hint of an idea of the faint suggestion of possibly maybe giving the Republicans a chance to paint Democrats as ZOMG SOFT ON TEH DEFENSE!!!!!11!!!, therefore

No.

Posted by: Old Hat on November 14, 2007 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

A year after the demoncrats gained seats, they remain totally ineffectual.

I am convinced that neither party really wants to withdraw from Iraq, the money is just too damn good.

We have spent 1.5 trillion dollars already, why not spend another brazilian* or two?

*(my apologies to those who don't get my drift)

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on November 14, 2007 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

. . . and remember:

Impeachment is off the table.

Fucking numb-nuts worthless congress, numb-nuts worthless party. I'm half-tempted to vote for Hillary just to encourage the inevitable self-destruction that will happen to the Democrats when they're in control and end up screwing the American people ten times worse than Cheney's wettest dream.

They're incapable of real change, because Big Money runs BOTH PARTIES.

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on November 14, 2007 at 3:33 PM | PERMALINK

...and in the House, a vote to find some White House officials in contempt that has been postponed since July has been postponed again , because the Democrats are afraid to actually pull the trigger.

Posted by: AJ on November 14, 2007 at 3:52 PM | PERMALINK

And what exactly, Kevin, is a "real filibuster?" Does that imply that the filibusters that have occurred on all other measures this session --including the filibuster happening today on the Farm Bill, are not "real?"

Posted by: Patty on November 14, 2007 at 4:12 PM | PERMALINK

This guy Al is really out of the loop isn't he?

Iraq has somwe 325,000 trained forces, they want to turn Iraq over to the Iraqis. AQI, according to many has been routed.

Posted by: Ya Know.... on November 14, 2007 at 4:29 PM | PERMALINK

..they want to make the sacrifices of the military meaningless. Posted by: Al on November 14, 2007 at 1:31 PM

Its a freedom operation AL, as they stand up we stand down [redeploy] according to George]

Posted by: Ya Know.... on November 14, 2007 at 4:31 PM | PERMALINK

And what exactly, Kevin, is a "real filibuster?"

A "real" filibuster involves a senator or a group of senators speaking continuously until either they give up or the Senate manages 60 votes to end the "debate". The Republicans haven't actually filibustered anything, they just say that they intend to filibuster, and if the Democrats don't think they have the 60 votes required to end the real thing, they just treat it like an actual filibuster without the theatrics. Durbin is saying that he wants the Republicans to actually talk forever, hoping that the public will think that they are crazy.

Posted by: AJ on November 14, 2007 at 4:38 PM | PERMALINK

Gee, if a filibuster is only the "Mr Smith goes to Washington kind," I guess we haven't had a filibuster in the Senate for many years. I'm sure Sen. McConnell would love your definition.

Posted by: Patty on November 14, 2007 at 4:46 PM | PERMALINK

We shake our heads at the fundies who for 30 years have voted to end abortion when we observe all they get for their allegiance to the Republican Party are tax cuts for the rich and jobs to China the Wal-Mart way. But progressives are in the same boat. They too have an unresponsive party that seems to vote for a status quo that benefits the haves while the not-have-so-much Middle Class experiences free market discipline without, and this is what separates the US from other deindustrialized countries, a safety net, risk-sharing schemes and education programs. At least the Republicans don't actively fight against their "base".

The Dems, at least the Dems that control the party, if left to their own interests, and the interests of the funders they represent, just don’t care about the war or the Cheney Regency’s authoritarianism. They are not the guardians of justice and fairness, or democracy, or the disenfranchised, or the Rights of Man the liberals wish they were anymore than the Republicans are defenders of moral values or the good tidings of Jesus of Nazareth.

If all wars were paid for by a special tax on the top 1% there would no more project wars for the authoritarians, or the imperialists or misfit rich kids from Texas.

Posted by: bellumregio on November 14, 2007 at 4:58 PM | PERMALINK
The Democrats have an important weapon in the power of the purse.

Do they? They have 49 Senators plus 2 independents who caucus with them, but one of the independents is Joe “Love the War” Lieberman who consistently supports Bush with regard to the war and so much else. So they get to pick committee chairmen and bring bills to the floor, but they can’t win cloture votes or even get any significant credit when they force Bush to veto a bill to end the war.

To me, seems more like power to swing the purse more than power of the purse. It’s not at all clear how effective forcing the Republicans to filibuster will be. Ok by me if the try and see how the public reacts.

I think fate has played a cruel joke on the Democrats.

They have no balls.

And in the good old House, Pelosi has to put up with the likes of Gene Taylor of Mississippi and other conservative Democrats who never get their feet held to fire for voting with Bush and the Republicans regarding Iraq. Her majority is fictional when it comes to Iraq and matters of national security.

And, wow, boy, that Ron Paul is a big help. He’s already proven that he is willing to vote with Bush and the Republicans when it comes to ending the war. His vote against the supplemental appropriation bill that passed (later vetoed by Bush) in spite of his nay vote left a lasting impression upon me. But far as I can tell, hardly anybody noticed, certainly not his supporters.

I think fate has played a cruel joke on the Democrats.

Posted by: little ole jim from red state on November 14, 2007 at 5:06 PM | PERMALINK


Our bi-polar DC politicos have a bi-partisan Iraq stance. To wit: we'll leave when the oil runs dry.

Posted by: Dr WU-the last of the big time thinkers on November 14, 2007 at 5:29 PM | PERMALINK

Since the surge was implemented, there has been a substantial drop in American deaths and in Iraqi deaths. Several other indicators are also looking good: higher electricity, some Sunnis returning to their neighborhoods, more AQI being killed or detained, and more agreements between Sunni and Shia.

At a moment when things seem to be going so well, forcing a withdrawal seems unwise, both strategically and politically. If conditions worsen again, that would be a better time to try to demand that we withdraw.

Posted by: ex-liberal on November 14, 2007 at 5:32 PM | PERMALINK

Why float a trial balloon? Why not strategize this within the party and then don't pull the bill. They are giving the R's time to prepare a strategy and talking points to fill the void. This classic Sun Tsu art of war. Think of the media attention they would get if this was done without notification.

Posted by: Tom_23 on November 14, 2007 at 5:51 PM | PERMALINK

The Democrats should be eager to explain to the American people why they want to turn Iraq over to AL Qeada, and why they want to make the sacrifices of the military meaningless.

That's right, Al. The failure of the policy justifies its continuation.

It's soft-brained logic like this that got us into Iraq and soft-brained logic like this that's going to keep us there indefinitely.

Posted by: chuck on November 14, 2007 at 6:10 PM | PERMALINK

Nay. The rubber stamp dems will waffle and whine. Instead of a real filibuster, they'll roll out the cots, order pizza and have a "filibuster party". The republicans will make the democrats pay for the pizza too.

Posted by: JerseyMissouri on November 14, 2007 at 6:41 PM | PERMALINK

JerseyMissouri has it almost right. He forgot to add that the denouement of the whole affair will be the tearful apologies from the Democratic leaders like Harry and Steve and Nancy and Diane seeking forgiveness from the American people for putting them through such a traumatic event. And finally heretofore neutral Hillary Clinton will take a stand on the issue and say that she was against all this to begin with.

Obama will be absent through all this, campaigning in Iowa, explaining that his Outlook Calendar crashed.

Posted by: gregor on November 14, 2007 at 6:54 PM | PERMALINK

This is border-line betrayal of our troops. Dispensing with the posturing, the Democrats would make the sacrifice of our troops thus far meaningless because they realize that even before this recent period of success, the Iraq War and the Afghanistan War are the most successful and ingenius military conquests and occupations in world history given the parameters. I challenge any of you to compare the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld/Gates military command to any similar or greater commitment of troops in U.S. History; really the only Commander who did more with less is probably George Washington, but even that is debatable. For all the hagiography of Lincoln and FDR, they were military incompetents who cost US lives in far greater numbers than prudent military command would have. FDR could have avoided WW II altogether if he enforced the Treaty of Berlin (1922) in which Germany agreed to remain de-militarized in exchange for peace with the US.

Can you see how egregious the Durbin et al.'s betrayal is? They'd rather surrender Iraq and it's 3rd or 4th highest oil reserves to the product of some chaotic Islamic power struggle and spin the war as Bush defeat than permit Bush and his successors to acheive a gradual victory.

And, I have a question; if leaving Iraq makes sense, why does leaving Afghanistan not make sense? Afghanistan does not even have oil.

The hypocrisy and pure villiany of Congressional Democrats and so many participants in this web-site (source-generators and comment-writers) is despicable.

And your making a mistake; when we have to go back to Iraq, it will be the Democrats who are blamed forever (actually, we are not leaving - ask Clinton, Obama, and Edwards like they did in the debate several weeks back).

Withdrawal now might spare troops now, but not long-term. And it will make the deaths and maiming of troops thus far a waste. That's on the Democrats head, especially Democrats backed the wars that were overwhelming called for given the circumstances as we understood them (even those who were anti-War were anti-War despite Hussein's weapons potential, not because they thought it was a fantasy).

TOH

Posted by: The Objective Historian on November 14, 2007 at 7:04 PM | PERMALINK

Some of the recent comments seem to think that Iraqi Forces are in control of Iraq so we can leave. But if that is the case, there is nothing for us to do but observe for while from the green zone which ought to be casualty-free. So, if concern for US soldier's lives is really the issue, why do you want to withdraw now (which all-military advice says would be premature in regard to the effectiveness of Iraqi forces but would rather risk chaos). The fear that Bush will win and be the uber-Truman of our time is palpable; that is what is driving this.

Bush II is looking more and more like perhaps the greatest president in US history when one looks at the bottom line; FDR looking more and more like the worst (and I think FDR was right on nearly every domestic issue). But his failure to enfroce the Treaty of Berlin (1922) was the all-time most catastrophic blunder in - perhaps - world history. I'm just grateful the Great One, George W. Bush did not make the same mistake in 2003 by permitting Hussein to continue his proven pursuit of WMD (note: he has been proven to 1) try to get them from Nigeria; 2) trying to cloak his actions by defying inspectors; 3) earning vast funds to pursue WMD by thwarting the oil-food regime).

Hey Al ... you are great.

TOH

Posted by: The Objective Historian on November 14, 2007 at 7:16 PM | PERMALINK

Great stuff TOH. I hear Onion has lots of openings.

Posted by: gregor on November 14, 2007 at 7:20 PM | PERMALINK

For Chuck:

The Democrats should be eager to explain to the American people why they want to turn Iraq over to AL Qeada, and why they want to make the sacrifices of the military meaningless.

That's right, Al. The failure of the policy justifies its continuation.

It's soft-brained logic like this that got us into Iraq and soft-brained logic like this that's going to keep us there indefinitely.

---

Chuck, I respect your opinion that this might constitute a failure; but how is withdrawing not a larger failure? Whatever one thinks about the past we now have a choice: fight-the-same as since 2003; fight-better as we learn from experience (which Petraeus seems to be doing; or leaving Iraq to whatever and having to go back and repeat all of this if Iraq again becomes a threat (which one must surely at least fear substantively it will; the future being impossible to predict precisely). I think the fact is that the status quo is better than us leaving in terms of national security; at least now, by the presence of US military on the ground, we decide what happens in Iraq in regard to it's oil and it's military capabilties to a far greater degree than if we left. So, it's fine to look at 2003-2007 as a "failure." But that does not mean quitting per se; it means stop failing and find a way to succeed also. I don't see how quitting is the rational choice over to keep trying new things and hope that gradually if not precipitously things will improve. You know, Al-Qaeda is in far more a quagmire than we are; as Bin Laden's video-tape proves. We are killing them 25-1 and they are losing with each month the hearts and minds of the Muslim world; polls show this.

TOH

Posted by: The Objective Historian on November 14, 2007 at 7:27 PM | PERMALINK

Gregor:

Thanks for conceding to me through omission in such a sportsmanlike way; if so absolutely humorless one. But wait; tell that one to Bevis; I can hear it now resounding through the smoke, "huh...uh-huh...huh-huh."

TOH

Posted by: The Objective Historian on November 14, 2007 at 7:29 PM | PERMALINK

"It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness."
--Jesus Christ

Posted by: Quotation Man on November 14, 2007 at 7:36 PM | PERMALINK

I think Kevin is right, this is simply a trial balloon. Dems are testing the waters to see how their base feels about giving the Republicans the floor to spin. I vote go for it. If you want to justify this administration's policies for hours on end, have fun.

The only disappointing part is that I do not anticipate that the Democrats will follow through with the threat.

OOB

Posted by: Out on Bond on November 14, 2007 at 8:27 PM | PERMALINK

This would be a terrible choice for the first bill to force a real filibuster on. It should be something like a bill condemning torture where the GOP can't wrap themselves in the flag and pretend to be protecting the troops.

Posted by: tom veil on November 15, 2007 at 10:56 AM | PERMALINK

"Thanks for conceding to me"

LOL... Dear heart, when a commenter provides something that is certifiably nuts, not to mention replete with mindless partisan drivel, we see no reason to take it seriously. Mockery is the only appropriate response.

Posted by: PaulB on November 15, 2007 at 12:16 PM | PERMALINK

Trust me, everybody lies!

LOL ROFLMAO

Posted by: MarkH on November 15, 2007 at 1:46 PM | PERMALINK

Why do they just NOT appropriate any "bridge" money? Tell the Little Idiot (and the Amerikan Public) the Admin's got its DOD money for the year. IF he didn't put the war in the DOD budget, shame on him.

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