Reid And Kerry Make It Too Easy For GOP On Iraq
The way to eventually beat Bush and the GOP Stepford children who follow him on Iraq is to incrementally box him in. But the Senate Democrats still have not figured this out. Remember the scene from “All The President’s Men”, when the Hal Holbrook character (“Deep Throat”) assailed Bob Woodward in the parking garage for “shooting too high” in his and Bernstein’s attempts to implicate senior Nixon officials? The point that Mark Felt was trying to make to Woodward that day was not to aim so high and shoot wildly, because it becomes easier for your opponents to deflect your claims and undermine your whole inquiry or line of attack. So armed with the knowledge that the Republicans were going to try and embarrass them this week on Iraq, what did Kerry and Feingold do today with their resolution? For that matter, what did Reid do with his second one?
They both aimed too high. As laudable as we may think it was for Kerry and Feingold to put forward a resolution today calling for a withdrawal of American forces by July 1, 2007, this effort was not only doomed from the start (it lost 89-13), but also hurt the subsequent effort by the rest of the caucus to pass the succeeding watered-down, nonbinding resolution asking Bush to pretty-please start taking troops out without a date certain (it lost by only 39-60). In fact, it was surprising to me that Reid got 39 votes for this resolution. This tells me that had the Democrats not shot too high with the Kerry-Feingold resolution, and had entered this debate not being backed into the withdrawal storyline, who knows where things could have ended up here.
Look, as long as Democrats begin every debate on Iraq this year with the words “withdrawal”, “timeline”, or even “redeployment”, the GOP has a political need to back Bush up and unleash the dogs. That is the problem with what Kerry, Feingold, and even Reid did today by framing the debate at the outset about withdrawal. Instead, I suggest that Democrats begin by starting from the outer edges of policy responses and then working their way in incrementally and gradually making it more and more deadly for Bush's supporters to stick with him. For example, what would have happened today if Kerry and Feingold had drafted a more-or-less unified Democratic resolution that only dealt with asserting that there would be no permanent bases or large-scale permanent troop presence inside Iraq? How many vulnerable Republicans this year could have voted against that amendment today without harming their reelection chances in November? Not many.
Once such a resolution could be put out there, the Democrats could come back to the issue of Iraq when Congress returns from summer recess and then put forward the next resolution, bringing the circle in closer on the GOP, which would state that there will be no American troops in Iraq on or after December 31, 2008, so that a vote against that by the GOP would not only be inconsistent with current American public opinion, but also prove to voters in advance of the midterms that the GOP only wants to dump their Iraq mess on Bush’s successor.
Working incrementally and not aiming too high is the key to Democratic success this year on Iraq.