Putting The Bush Foreign Policy Into Receivership
I had previously argued that the Democratic leadership should work to create a bipartisan congressional foreign policy agenda as a counterpoint to the White House. As Bush publicly blows off the generals on whether he will escalate Iraq by another 20,000-40,000 troops, does this issue have the potential to be the Democrats’ blunt instrument against the Bush Administration at the start of the new Congress? I think it does.
We hear that the generals and the Joint Chiefs are against the escalation. We are seeing signs that Republicans up for reelection in 2008 are at best hesitant and at worst opposed to the escalation. Just today, Minnesota GOP Senator Norm Coleman has come out against the escalation, and supposedly Maine’s Susan Collins is questioning it as well. How many GOP senators and House members who are up for reelection in 2008 will support an escalation? Will New Mexico’s GOP representative Heather Wilson easily support Bush’s escalation after barely defeating Patricia Madrid? Similarly, will Pennsylvania’s Jim Gerlach or even California’s John Doolittle easily support the escalation? In the Senate, how many GOP votes would Bush get for the escalation if Coleman, Collins, Wayne Allard, John Warner, Gordon Smith, and perhaps John Sununu and Liddy Dole were worried about how damaging such a vote would be to their reelection chances, and others like Arlen Specter and Chuck Hagel were against it already? It’s possible that Bush would not get anywhere near a majority in the Senate to support an escalation vote.
Yes, Bush wants the media to think that he is willing to work with the Democrats his last two years, but his actions indicate so far that far from heeding the desires of the voters last month, he instead is sticking to his guns and ready to escalate things overseas. With that in mind, maybe the:
1. Democrats should convene early hearings at Ike Skelton’s House Armed Services Committee and Carl Levin’s Senate Armed Services Committee in mid-January to pin down the Joint Chiefs on what they told the White House about an escalation;
2. Then use those hearings to force the escalation votes ahead of his 2007 State of the Union speech as a way to kneecap him prior to the speech and undercut his influence for the remainder of the Congress.
This allows the Democrats to paint him as being out of touch with both the military brass and the American people. Yes, it sets the stage for many confrontations with an eviscerated White House, but I suspect we are going to have this anyway. With the Baker/Hamilton report so popular with the public and Bush seemingly so ready to discard it, perhaps the Democrats should force this debate on Iraq up front and isolate the White House on foreign policy early in the year, while making the case that a bipartisan Congress will better reflect the will of the voters.
Yes, this amounts to Congress putting the Bush foreign policy into receivership. But for the sake of our troops, our interests in the region, our communities here at home, our budget, and yes, the Iraqis themselves, now is the time to do that.